JOHN B. GOUGH

(1817-1886)

THE CONQUEST OF A BAD HABIT

Happily few human beings sink to the depths in which John B. Gough found himself at the age of twenty-five years. By sheer force of will he raised himself from the slough in which he wallowed, till he attained a position honored among men, and performed a service of exceptional usefulness to society.

His story, as told in his own vivid words, is one of the most absorbing in the annals of self-help. His example must have helped thousands among the myriads whom he thrilled by the dramatic recital of his experience.


From his "Autobiography."

I boarded in Grand Street at this time, and soon after laid the foundation of many of my future sorrows. I possessed a tolerably good voice, and sang pretty well, having also the faculty of imitation rather strongly developed; and being well stocked with amusing stories, I was introduced into the society of thoughtless and dissipated young men, to whom my talents made me welcome. These companions were what is termed respectable, but they drank. I now began to attend the theatres frequently, and felt ambitious of strutting my part upon the stage. By slow but sure degrees I forgot the lessons of wisdom which my mother had taught me, lost all relish for the great truths of religion, neglected my devotions, and considered an actor's situation to be the ne plus ultra of greatness.

During my residence at Newburyport my early serious impressions on one occasion in a measure revived, and I felt some stinging of conscience for my neglect of the Sabbath and religious observances. I recommenced attending a place of worship, and for a short time I attended the Rev. Mr. Campbell's church, by whom, as well as by several of his members, I was treated with much Christian kindness. I was often invited to Mr. Campbell's house, as well as to the house of some of his hearers, and it seemed as if a favorable turning-point or crisis in my fortunes had arrived. Mr. Campbell was good enough to manifest a very great interest in my welfare, and frequently expressed a hope that I should be enabled, although late in life, to obtain an education. And this I might have acquired had not my evil genius prevented my making any efforts to obtain so desirable an end. My desire for strong liquors and company seemed to present an insuperable barrier to all improvement; and after a few weeks every aspiration after better things had ceased; every bud of promised comfort was crushed. Again I grieved the spirit that had been striving with my spirit, and ere long became even more addicted to the use of the infernal draughts, which had already wrought me so much woe, than at any previous period of my existence.

And now my circumstances began to be desperate indeed. In vain were all my efforts to obtain work, and at last I became so reduced that at times I did not know when one meal was ended, where on the face of the broad earth I should find another. Further mortification awaited me, and by slow degrees I became aware of it. The young men with whom I had associated, in barrooms and parlors, and who wore a little better clothing than I could afford, one after another began to drop my acquaintance. If I walked in the public streets, I too quickly perceived the cold look, the averted eye, the half recognition, and to a sensitive spirit such as I possessed such treatment was almost past endurance. To add to the mortification caused by such a state of things, it happened that those who had laughed the loudest at my songs and stories, and who had been social enough with me in the barroom, were the very individuals who seemed most ashamed of my acquaintance. I felt that I was shunned by the respectable portion of the community also; and once, on asking a lad to accompany me in a walk, he informed me that his father had cautioned him against associating with me. This was a cutting reproof, and I felt it more deeply than words can express. And could I wonder at it? No. Although I may have used bitter words against that parent, my conscience told me that he had done no more than his duty in preventing his son being influenced by my dissipated habits. Oh! how often have I lain down and bitterly remembered many who had hailed my arrival in their company as a joyous event. Their plaudits would resound in my ears, and peals of laughter ring again in my deserted chamber; then would succeed stillness, broken only by the beatings of my agonized heart, which felt that the gloss of respectability had worn off and exposed my threadbare condition. To drown these reflections, I would drink, not from love of the taste of the liquor, but to become so stupefied by its fumes as to steep my sorrows in a half oblivion; and from this miserable stupor I would wake to a fuller consciousness of my situation, and again would I banish my reflections by liquor.

There lived in Newburyport at that time a Mr. Law, who was a rum seller, and I had spent many a shilling at his bar; he proposed to me that he would purchase some tools, and I could start a bindery on my own account, paying him by installments. He did so; and I thought it an act of great kindness then, and for some time afterward, till I found he had received pay from me for tools he had never paid for himself, and I was dunned for the account he had failed to settle. He even borrowed seventy-five dollars from me after I signed the pledge, which has never been repaid. "Such is life."

Despite all that had occurred, my good name was not so far gone but that I might have succeeded, by the aid of common industry and attention, in my business. I was a good workman, and found no difficulty in procuring employment, and, I have not the slightest doubt, should have succeeded in my endeavor to get on in the world but for the unhappy love of stimulating drinks, and my craving for society. I was now my own master; all restraint was removed, and, as might be expected, I did as I pleased in my own shop. I became careless, was often in the barroom when I should have been at my bindery, and instead of spending my evenings at home in reading or conversation, they were almost invariably passed in the company of the rum bottle, which became almost my sole household deity. Five months only did I remain in business, and during that short period I gradually sunk deeper and deeper in the scale of degradation. I was now the slave of a habit which had become completely my master, and which fastened its remorseless fangs in my very vitals. Thought was a torturing thing. When I looked back, memory drew fearful pictures, the lines of lurid flame, and, whenever I dared anticipate the future, hope refused to illumine my onward path. I dwelt in one awful present; nothing to solace me—nothing to beckon me onward to a better state.

I knew full well that I was proceeding on a downward course, and crossing the sea of time, as it were, on a bridge perilous as that over which Mahomet's followers are said to enter paradise. A terrible feeling was ever present that some evil was impending which would soon fall on my devoted head, and I would shudder as if the sword of Damocles, suspended by its single hair, was about to fall and utterly destroy me.

Warnings were not wanting, but they had no voice of terror for me. I was intimately acquainted with a young man in the town, and well remember his coming to my shop one morning and asking the loan of ninepence with which to buy rum. I let him have the money, and the spirit was soon consumed. He begged me to lend him a second ninepence, but I refused; yet, during my temporary absence, he drank some spirit of wine which was in a bottle in the shop, and used by me in my business. He went away, and the next I heard of him was that he had died shortly afterward. Such an awful circumstance as this might well have impressed me, but habitual indulgence had almost rendered me impervious to salutary impressions. I was, at this time, deeper in degradation than at any period before which I can remember.

My custom now was to purchase my brandy—which, in consequence of my limited means, was of the very worst description—and keep it at the shop, where, by little and little, I drank it, and continually kept myself in a state of excitement.

This course of procedure entirely unfitted me for business, and it not unfrequently happened, when I had books to bind, that I would instead of attending to business keep my customers waiting, whilst in the company of desolute companions I drank during the whole day, to the complete ruin of my prospects in life. So entirely did I give myself up to the bottle that those of my companions who fancied they still possessed some claims to respectability gradually withdrew from my company. At my house, too, I used to keep a bottle of gin, which was in constant requisition. Indeed, go where I would, stimulant I must and did have. Such a slave was I to the bottle that I resorted to it continually, and in vain was every effort which I occasionally made to conquer the debasing habit. I had become a father; but God in his mercy removed my little one at so early an age that I did not feel the loss as much as if it had lived longer, to engage my affections.

A circumstance now transpired which attracted my attention, and led me to consider my situation, and whither I was hurrying. A lecture was advertised to be delivered by the first reformed drunkard, Mr. I. J. Johnson, who visited Newburyport, and I was invited by some friends, who seemed to feel an interest, to attend and hear what he had to say. I determined after some consideration to go and hear what was to be said on the subject. The meeting was held in the Rev. Mr. Campbell's church, which was pretty well crowded. I went to the door, but would go no farther; but in the ten minutes I stood there, I heard him in graphic and forcible terms depict the misery of the drunkard and the awful consequences of his conduct, both as they affected himself and those connected with him. My conscience told that he spoke the truth—for what had I not suffered! I knew he was right, and I turned to leave the church when a young man offered me the pledge to sign. I actually turned to sign it; but at that critical moment the appetite for strong drink, as if determined to have the mastery over me, came in all its force. Oh, how I wanted it! and remembering that I had a pint of brandy at home I deferred signing, and put off to "a more convenient season," a proceeding that might have saved me so much after sorrow. I, however, compromised the matter with my conscience by inwardly resolving that I would drink up what spirit I had by me, and then think of leaving off altogether.

I forgot the impressions made upon me by the speaker at the meeting. Still, I madly drained the inebriating cup, and speedily my state was worse than ever. Oh, no, I soon ceased to think about it, for my master passion, like Aaron's rod, swallowed up every thought and feeling opposed to it which I possessed.

My business grew gradually worse, and at length my constitution became so impaired that even when I had the will I did not possess the power to provide for my daily wants. My hands would at times tremble so that I could not perform the finer operations of my business, the finishing and gilding. How could I letter straight, with a hand burning and shaking from the effects of a debauch. Sometimes, when it was absolutely necessary to finish off some work, I have entered the shop with a stern determination not to drink a single drop until I completed it. I have bitterly felt that my failing was a matter of common conversation in the town, and a burning sense of shame would flush my fevered brow at the conviction that I was scorned by the respectable portion of the community. But these feelings passed away like the morning cloud or early dew, and I pursued my old course.

One day I thought I would not go to work, and a great inducement to remain at home existed in the shape of my enemy, West India rum, of which I had a quantity in the house. Although the morning was by no means far advanced, I sat down, intending to do nothing until dinner-time. I could not sit alone without rum, and I drank glass after glass until I became so stupefied that I was compelled to lie down on the bed, where I soon fell asleep. When I awoke it was late in the afternoon, and then, as I persuaded myself, too late to make a bad day's work good. I invited a neighbor, who, like myself, was a man of intemperate habits, to spend the evening with me. He came, and we sat down to our rum, and drank foully together until late that night, when he staggered home; and so intoxicated was I that, in moving to go to bed, I fell over the table, broke a lamp, and lay on the floor for some time, unable to rise. At last I managed to get to bed, but, oh, I did not sleep, only dozed at intervals, for the drunkard never knows the blessings of undisturbed repose. I awoke in the night with a raging thirst. No sooner was one draught taken than the horrible dry feeling returned; and so I went on, swallowing repeated glassfuls of the spirit until at last I had drained the very last drop which the jug contained. My appetite grew by what it fed on; and, having a little money by me, I with difficulty got up, made myself look as tidy as possible, and then went out to buy more rum, with which I returned to the house.

The fact will, perhaps, seem incredible, but so it was that I drank spirits continually without tasting a morsel of food for the next three days. This could not last long; a constitution of iron strength could not endure such treatment, and mine was partially broken down by previous dissipation.

I began to experience a feeling hitherto unknown to me. After the three days' drinking to which I have just referred, I felt, one night, as I lay on my bed, an awful sense of something dreadful coming over me. It was as if I had been partially stunned, and now in an interval of consciousness was about to have the fearful blow, which had prostrated me, repeated. There was a craving for sleep, sleep, blessed sleep, but my eyelids were as if they could not close. Every object around me I beheld with startling distinctness, and my hearing became unnaturally acute. Then, to the ringing and roaring in my ears would suddenly succeed a silence so awful that only the stillness of the grave might be compared with it.

At other times, strange voices would whisper unintelligible words, and the slightest noise would make me start like a guilty thing. But the horrible, burning thirst was insupportable, and to quench it and induce sleep I clutched again and again the rum bottle, hugged my enemy, and poured the infernal fluid down my parched throat. But it was no use, none; I could not sleep. Then I bethought me of tobacco; and staggering from my bed to a shelf near by, with great difficulty I managed to procure a pipe and some matches. I could not stand to light the latter, so I lay again on the bed, and scraped one on the wall. I began to smoke, and the narcotic leaf produced a stupefaction. I dozed a little, but, feeling a warmth on my face, I awoke and discovered my pillow to be on fire! I had dropped a lighted match on the bed. By a desperate effort I threw the pillow on the floor, and, too exhausted to feel annoyed by the burning feathers, I sank into a state of somnolency.

How long I lay, I do not exactly know; but I was roused from my lethargy by the neighbors, who, alarmed by the smell of fire, came to my room to ascertain the cause. When they took me from my bed, the under part of the straw with which it was stuffed was smouldering, and in a quarter of an hour more must have burst into a flame. Had such been the case, how horrible would have been my fate! for it is more than probable that, in my half-senseless condition, I should have been suffocated, or burned to death. The fright produced by this incident, and a very narrow escape, in some degree sobered me, but what I felt more than anything else was the exposure now; all would be known, and I feared my name would become, more than ever, a byword and a reproach.

Will it be believed that I again sought refuge in rum? Yes, so it was. Scarcely had I recovered from the fright than I sent out, procured a pint of rum, and drank it all in less than an hour. And now came upon me many terrible sensations. Cramps attacked me in my limbs, which raked me with agony, and my temples throbbed as if they would burst. So ill was I that I became seriously alarmed, and begged the people of the house to send for a physician. They did so, but I immediately repented having summoned him, and endeavored, but ineffectually, to get out of his way when he arrived. He saw at a glance what was the matter with me, ordered the persons about me to watch me carefully, and on no account to let me have any spirituous liquors. Everything stimulating was vigorously denied me; and there came on the drunkard's remorseless torture: delirium tremens, in all its terrors, attacked me. For three days I endured more agony than pen could describe, even were it guided by the mind of Dante. Who can feel the horrors of the horrible malady, aggravated as it is by the almost ever-abiding consciousness that it is self-sought. Hideous faces appeared on the wall and on the ceiling and on the floors; foul things crept along the bedclothes, and glaring eyes peered into mine. I was at one time surrounded by millions of monstrous spiders that crawled slowly over every limb, whilst the beaded drops of perspiration would start to my brow, and my limbs would shiver until the bed rattled again. Strange lights would dance before my eyes, and then suddenly the very blackness of darkness would appall me by its dense gloom. All at once, while gazing at a frightful creation of my distempered mind, I seemed struck with sudden blindness. I knew a candle was burning in the room but I could not see it, all was so pitchy dark. I lost the sense of feeling, too, for I endeavored to grasp my arm in one hand, but consciousness was gone. I put my hand to my side, my head, but felt nothing, and still I knew my limbs and frame were there. And then the scene would change! I was falling—falling swiftly as an arrow—far down into some terrible abyss; and so like reality was it that as I fell I could see the rocky sides of the horrible shaft, where mocking, jibing, fiend-like forms were perched; and I could feel the air rushing past me, making my hair stream out by the force of the unwholesome blast. Then the paroxysm sometimes ceased for a few moments, and I would sink back on my pallet, drenched with perspiration, utterly exhausted, and feeling a dreadful certainty of the renewal of my torments.

By the mercy of God I survived this awful seizure; and when I rose, a weak, broken-down man, and surveyed my ghastly features in a glass, I thought of my mother, and asked myself how I had obeyed the instructions I had received from her lips, and to what advantage I had turned the lessons she had taught me. I remembered her prayers and tears, thought of what I had been but a few short months before, and contrasted my situation with what it then was. Oh! how keen were my own rebukes; and in the excitement of the moment I resolved to lead a better life, and abstain from the accursed cup.

For about a month, terrified by what I had suffered, I adhered to my resolution, then my wife came home, and in my joy at her return I flung my good resolutions to the wind, and foolishly fancying that I could now restrain my appetite, which had for a whole month remained in subjection, I took a glass of brandy. That glass aroused the slumbering demon, who would not be satisfied by so tiny a libation. Another and another succeeded, until I was again far advanced in the career of intemperance. The night of my wife's return I went to bed intoxicated.

I will not detain the reader by the particulars of my everyday life at this time; they may easily be imagined from what has already been stated. My previous bitter experience, one would think, might have operated as a warning; but none save the inebriate can tell the almost resistless strength of the temptations which assail him. I did not, however, make quite so deep a plunge as before. My tools I had given into the hands of Mr. Gray, for whom I worked, receiving about five dollars a week. My wages were paid me every night, for I was not to be trusted with much money at a time, so certain was I to spend a great portion of it in drink. As it was, I regularly got rid of one third of what I daily received, for rum.

My wardrobe, as it had, indeed, nearly always been whilst I drank to excess, was now exceedingly shabby, and it was with the greatest difficulty that I could manage to procure the necessaries of life. My wife became very ill. Oh! how miserable I was! Some of the women who were in attendance on my wife told me to get two quarts of rum. I procured it, and as it was in the house, and I did not anticipate serious consequences, I could not withstand the strong temptation to drink. I did drink, and so freely that the usual effect was produced. How much I swallowed I cannot tell, but the quantity, judging from the effects, must have been considerable.

Ten long weary days of suspense passed, at the end of which my wife and her infant both died. Then came the terribly oppressive feeling that I was forgotten of God, as well as abandoned by man. All the consciousness of my dreadful situation pressed heavily, indeed, upon me, and keenly as a sensitive mind could, did I feel the loss I had experienced. I drank now to dispel my gloom, or to drown it in the maddening cup. And soon was it whispered, from one to another, until the whole town became aware of it, that my wife and child were lying dead, and that I was drunk! But if ever I was cursed with the faculty of thought, in all its intensity, it was then. And this was the degraded condition of one who had been nursed in the lap of piety, and whose infant tongue had been taught to utter a prayer against being led into temptation. There in the room where all who had loved me were; lying in the unconscious slumber of death was I, gazing, with a maudlin melancholy imprinted on my features, on the dead forms of those who were flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. During the miserable hours of darkness I would steal from my lonely bed to the place where my dead wife and child lay, and, in agony of soul, pass my shaking hand over their cold faces, and then return to my bed after a draught of rum, which I had obtained and hidden under the pillow of my wretched couch.

How apt the world is to judge of a man pursuing the course I did as one destitute of all feeling, with no ambition, no desire for better things! To speak of such a man's pride seems absurd, and yet drink does not destroy pride, ambition, or high aspirations. The sting of his misery is that he has ambition but no expectation; desire for better things but no hope; pride but no energy; therefore the possession of these very qualities is an additional burden to his load of agony. Could he utterly forget his manhood, and wallow with the beasts that perish, he would be comparatively happy. But his curse is that he thinks. He is a man, and must think. He cannot always drown thought or memory. He may, and does, fly for false solace to the drink, and may stun his enemy in the evening, but it will rend him like a giant in the morning. A flower, or half-remembered tune, a child's laughter, will sometimes suffice to flood the victim with recollections that either madden him to excess or send him crouching to his miserable room, to sit with face buried in his hands, while the hot, thin tears trickle over his swollen fingers.

I believe this to be one reason why I shrink from society; why I have so often refused kind invitations; why, though I love my personal friends as strongly and as truly as any man's friends are ever loved, I have so steadily withdrawn from social parties, dinners, or introductions. This is the penalty I must ever pay.

A man can never recover from the effects of such a seven years' experience, morally or physically.

The month of October had nearly drawn to a close, and on its last Sunday evening I wandered out into the streets, pondering as well as I was able to do—for I was somewhat intoxicated—on my lone and friendless condition. My frame was much weakened and little fitted to bear the cold of winter, which had already begun to come on. But I had no means of protecting myself against the bitter blast, and, as I anticipated my coming misery, I staggered along, houseless, aimless, and all but hopeless.

Some one tapped me on the shoulder. An unusual thing that, to occur to me, for no one now cared to come in contact with the wretched, shabby-looking drunkard. I was a disgrace, "a living, walking disgrace." I could scarcely believe my own senses when I turned and met a kind look; the thing was so unusual, and so entirely unexpected that I questioned the reality of it, but so it was. It was the first touch of kindness which I had known for months; and simple and trifling as the circumstance may appear to many, it went right to my heart, and like the wing of an angel, troubled the waters in that stagnant pool of affection, and made them once more reflect a little of the light of human love. The person who touched my shoulder was an entire stranger. I looked at him, wondering what his business was with me. Regarding me very earnestly, and apparently with much interest, he said:

"Mr. Gough, I believe?"

"That is my name," I replied, and was passing on.

"You have been drinking to-day," said the stranger, in a kind voice, which arrested my attention, and quite dispelled any anger at what I might otherwise have considered an officious interference in my affairs.

"Yes, sir," I replied. "I have——"

"Why do you not sign the pledge?" was the next query.

I considered for a moment or two, and then informed the strange friend who had so unexpectedly interested himself in my behalf that I had no hope of ever again becoming a sober man, and that I was without a single friend in the world who cared for me; that I fully expected to die very soon, cared not how soon, or whether I died drunk or sober, and, in fact, that I was in a condition of utter recklessness.

The stranger regarded me with a benevolent look, took me by the arm, and asked me how I should like to be as I once was, respectable and esteemed, well clad, and sitting as I used to, in a place of worship; enabled to meet my friends as in old times, and receive from them the pleasant nod of recognition as formerly; in fact, become a useful member of society?

"Oh," I replied, "I should like all these things first-rate; but I have no expectation that such a thing will ever happen. Such a change cannot be possible."

"Only sign our pledge," remarked my friend, "and I will warrant that it will be so. Sign it, and I will introduce you myself to good friends, who will feel an interest in your welfare and take a pleasure in helping you to keep your good resolution. Only, Mr. Gough, sign the pledge, and all will be as I have said; ay, and more, too!"

Oh! how pleasantly fell these words of kindness and promise on my crushed and bruised heart. I had long been a stranger to feelings such as now awoke in my bosom; a chord had been touched which vibrated to the tone of woe. Hope once more dawned; and I began to think, strange as it appeared, that such things as my friend promised me might come to pass. On the instant I resolved to try, at least, and said to the stranger:

"Well, I will sign it."

"When?" he asked.

"I cannot do so to-night," I replied, "for I must have some more drink presently, but I certainly will to-morrow."

"We have a temperance meeting to-morrow evening," he said; "will you sign it then?"

"I will."

"That is right," said he, grasping my hand; "I will be there to see you."

"You shall," I remarked, and we parted.

I went on my way much touched by the kind interest which at last some one had taken in my welfare. I said to myself: "If it should be the last act of my life, I will perform my promise and sign it, even though I die in the attempt, for that man has placed confidence in me, and on that account I love him."

I then proceeded to a low groggery in Lincoln Square, and in the space of half an hour drank several glasses of brandy; this in addition to what I had taken before made me very drunk, and I staggered home as well as I could.

Arrived there, I threw myself on the bed and lay in a state of insensibility until morning. The first thing which occurred to my mind on awaking was the promise I had made on the evening before, to sign the pledge; and feeling, as I usually did on the morning succeeding a drunken bout, wretched and desolate, I was almost sorry that I had agreed to do so. My tongue was dry, my throat parched, my temples throbbed as if they would burst, and I had a horrible burning feeling in my stomach which almost maddened me, and I felt that I must have some bitters or I should die. So I yielded to my appetite, which would not be appeased, and repaired to the same hotel where I had squandered away so many shillings before; there I drank three or four times, until my nerves were a little strung, and then I went to work.

All that day the coming event of the evening was continually before my mind's eye, and it seemed to me as if the appetite which had so long controlled me exerted more power over me than ever. It grew stronger than I had any time known it, now that I was about to rid myself of it. Until noon I struggled against its cravings, and then, unable to endure my misery any longer, I made some excuse for leaving the shop, and went nearly a mile from it in order to procure one more glass wherewith to appease the demon who had so tortured me. The day wore wearily away, and when evening came I determined, in spite of many a hesitation, to perform the promise I had made to the stranger the night before. The meeting was to be held at the lower town hall, Worcester; and thither, clad in an old brown surtout, closely buttoned up to my chin that my ragged habiliments beneath might not be visible, I went. I took a place among the rest, and when an opportunity of speaking offered itself, I requested permission to be heard, which was readily granted.

When I stood up to relate my story, I was invited to the stand, to which I repaired, and on turning to face the audience, I recognized my acquaintance who had asked me to sign. It was Mr. Joel Stratton. He greeted me with a smile of approbation, which nerved and strengthened me for my task, as I tremblingly observed every eye fixed upon me. I lifted my quivering hand and then and there told what rum had done for me. I related how I was once respectable and happy, and had a home, but that now I was a houseless, miserable, scathed, diseased, and blighted outcast from society. I had scarce a hope remaining to me of ever becoming that which I once was, but, having promised to sign the pledge, I had determined not to break my word, and would now affix my name to it. In my palsied hand I with difficulty grasped the pen, and, in characters almost as crooked as those of old Stephen Hopkins on the Declaration of Independence, I signed the total abstinence pledge, and resolved to free myself from the inexorable tyrant.

Although still desponding and hopeless, I felt that I was relieved from a part of my heavy load. It was not because I deemed there was any supernatural power in the pledge which would prevent my ever again falling into such depths of woe as I had already become acquainted with, but the feeling of relief arose from the honest desire I entertained to keep a good resolution. I had exerted a moral power which had long remained lying by perfectly useless. The very idea of what I had done strengthened and encouraged me. Nor was this the only impulse given me to proceed in my new pathway, for many who witnessed my signing and heard my simple statement came forward, kindly grasped my hand, and expressed their satisfaction at the step I had taken. A new and better day seemed already to have dawned upon me.

As I left the hall, agitated and enervated, I remember chuckling to myself, with great gratification, "I have done it—I have done it!" There was a degree of pleasure in having put my foot on the head of the tyrant who had so long led me captive at his will, but although I had "scotched the snake," I had not killed him, for every inch of his frame was full of venomous vitality, and I felt that all my caution was necessary to prevent his stinging me afresh. I went home, retired to bed, but in vain did I try to sleep. I pondered upon the step I had taken, and passed a restless night. Knowing that I had voluntarily renounced drink, I endeavored to support my sufferings, and resist the incessant craving of my remorseless appetite as well as I could, but the struggle to overcome it was insupportably painful. When I got up in the morning my brain seemed as though it would burst with the intensity of its agony; my throat appeared as if it were on fire; and in my stomach I experienced a dreadful burning sensation, as if the fire of the pit had been kindled there. My hands trembled so that to raise water to my feverish lips was almost impossible. I craved, literally gasped, for my accustomed stimulant, and felt that I should die if I did not have it; but I persevered in my resolve, and withstood the temptations which assailed me on every hand.

Still, during all this frightful time I experienced a feeling somewhat akin to satisfaction at the position I had taken. I made at least one step toward reformation. I began to think that it was barely possible I might see better days, and once more hold up my head in society. Such feelings as these would alternate with gloomy forebodings and thick coming fancies of approaching ill. At one time hope, and at another fear, would predominate, but the raging, dreadful, continued thirst was always present, to torture and tempt me.

After breakfast I proceeded to the shop where I was employed, feeling dreadfully ill. I determined, however, to put a bold face on the matter, and, in spite of the cloud which seemed to hang over me, attempt work. I was exceedingly weak, and fancied, as I almost reeled about the shop, that every eye was fixed upon me suspiciously, although I exerted myself to the utmost to conceal my agitation. I was suffering; and those who have never thus suffered cannot comprehend it. The shivering of the spine, then flushes of heat, causing every pore of the body to sting, as if punctured with some sharp instrument; the horrible whisperings in the ear, combined with a longing cry of the whole system for stimulants. One glass of brandy would steady my shaking nerves; I cannot hold my hand still; I cannot stand still. A young man but twenty-five years of age, and I have no control of my nerves; one glass of brandy would relieve this gnawing, aching, throbbing stomach, but I have signed the pledge. "I do agree that I will not use it; and I must fight it out." How I got through the day I cannot tell. I went to my employer and said:

"I signed the pledge last night."

"I know you did."

"I mean to keep it."

"So they all say, and I hope you will."

"You do not believe that I will; you have no confidence in me."

"None whatever."

I turned to my work, broken-hearted, crushed in spirit, paralyzed in energy, feeling how low I had sunk in the esteem of prudent and sober-minded men. Suddenly the small iron bar I had in my hand began to move; I felt it move, I gripped it; still it moved and twisted; I gripped still harder; yet the thing would move till I could feel it, yes, feel it, tearing the palm out of my hand, then I dropped it, and there it lay, a curling, shiny snake! I could hear the paper shavings rustle as the horrible thing writhed before me! If it had been a snake I should not have minded it. I was never afraid of a snake. I should have called some one to look at it, I could have killed it, I should not have been terrified at a thing; but I knew it was a cold dead bar of iron, and there it was, with its green eyes, its forked, darting tongue, curling in all its shiny loathsomeness, and the horror filled me so that my hair seemed to stand up and shiver, and my skin lift from the scalp to the ankles, and I groaned out, "I cannot fight this through! Oh! my God, I shall die!" when a gentleman came into the shop with a cheerful "Good-morning, Mr. Gough."

"Good-morning, sir."

"I saw you sign the pledge last night."

"Yes, sir, I did it."

"I was very glad to see you do it, and many young men followed your example. It is such men as you that we want, and I hope you will be the means of doing a great deal of good. My office is in the exchange; come in and see me. I shall be happy to make your acquaintance. I have only a minute or two to spare, but I thought I would just call in and tell you to keep up a brave heart. Good-bye, God bless you. Come in and see me."

That was Jesse Goodrich, then a practising attorney and counselor at law, in Worcester, now dead; but to the last of his life my true and faithful friend. It would be impossible to describe how this little act of kindness cheered me. With the exception of Mr. Stratton, who was a waiter at a temperance hotel, no one had accosted me for months in a manner which would lead me to think any one cared for me, or what might be my fate. Now I was not altogether alone in the world; there was a hope of my being rescued from the "slough of despond," where I had been so long floundering. I felt that the fountain of human kindness was not utterly sealed up, and again a green spot, an oasis, small, indeed, but cheering, appeared in the desert of my life. I had something to live for; a new desire for life seemed suddenly to spring up; the universal boundary of human sympathy included even my wretched self in its cheering circle. All these sensations were generated by a few kind words at the right time. Yes, now I can fight; and I did fight—six days and six nights—encouraged and helped by a few words of sympathy. He said, "Come in and see me." I will. He said he would be pleased to make my acquaintance. He shall. He said, "Keep up a brave heart!" By God's help I will. And so encouraged I fought on with not one hour of healthy sleep, not one particle of food passing my lips, for six days and six nights.

On the evening of the day following that on which I signed the pledge I went straight home from my workshop, with a dreadful feeling of some impending calamity haunting me. In spite of the encouragement I had received, the presentiment of coming evil was so strong that it bowed me almost to the dust with apprehension. The slakeless thirst still clung to me; and water, instead of allaying it, seemed only to increase its intensity.

I was fated to encounter one struggle more with my enemy before I became free. Fearful was that struggle. God in his mercy forbid that any young man should endure but a tenth part of the torture which racked my frame and agonized my heart.

As in the former attack, horrible faces glared upon me from the walls—faces ever changing, and displaying new and still more horrible features; black bloated insects crawled over my face, and myriads of burning, concentric rings were revolving incessantly. At one moment the chamber appeared as red as blood, and in a twinkling it was dark as the charnel house. I seemed to have a knife with hundreds of blades in my hand, every blade driven through the flesh, and all so inextricably bent and tangled together that I could not withdraw them for some time; and when I did, from my lacerated fingers the bloody fibres would stretch out all quivering with life. After a frightful paroxysm of this kind I would start like a maniac from my bed, and beg for life, life! What I of late thought so worthless seemed now to be of unappreciable value. I dreaded to die, and clung to existence with a feeling that my soul's salvation depended on a little more of life.

In about a week I gained, in a great degree, the mastery over my accursed appetite; but the strife had made me dreadfully weak. Gradually my health improved, my spirits recovered, and I ceased to despair. Once more was I enabled to crawl into the sunshine; but, oh, how changed! Wan cheeks and hollow eyes, feeble limbs and almost powerless hands plainly enough indicated that between me and death there had indeed been but a step; and those who saw me might say as was said of Dante, when he passed through the streets of France, "There's the man that has been in hell."