The Drunkard's Home
Around the last dying embers, in front of a smoky, stone fire-place, sat Kate and little Eddie Lee. A tallow candle was burning on the table where stood a few scattered, rusty dishes. It was but just dark, but the mother had lighted the candle for the children before she left the house; for she had gone, as was her custom since the evenings had become so cold, to gather wood by the wayside that her loved ones might be made more comfortable.
The wind sighed drearily through the crevices of that poor desolate looking tenement, which was the only place that these poor, heart-stricken children could call home.
Kate, a little girl of ten years, sat peering into the fire as if watching images among the dying coals which would soon go out, unless the mother returned with a fresh supply of fuel. She was thinking how happy must be little Jennie Brown, who had that day called to ask her to attend the Sabbath School with her. Jennie lived in such a nice, white house and had plenty of nice things to eat and good clothes to wear to church and school, and Katie thought how much she would like to accept Jennie's kind invitation and attend Sabbath School again, where she had once so dearly loved to go. But oh! she sighed, We are so poor! My clothes are not decent to wear up town on a weekday much less to church on the Sabbath. Poor girl! She had not even enough to eat, and often went to bed hungry that her mamma and Eddie might have the more. Little Eddie, as if to waken his dear sister from her sadness, bent quietly down and looking up into her face softly said: "Katie, why don't papa stay at home evenings like Mr. Brown?"
This question was too much for the overburdened heart of poor Katie, and she sobbed aloud. She could not answer, for she could not tell her brother that their father would probably spend the evening at the saloon and come staggering into the house at a late hour of the night and either fall down in a drunken sleep or curse and abuse their mother, who would only weep and bear it all so patiently. Little Eddie knew that his father drank rum, for his play-mates had taunted him with it and he knew it was bad, but he did not know of all the wretchedness that strong drink brought to their home, for the mother always tried to have the children sleeping when their father returned, that he might not be annoyed by their presence, and that they might not know of the abuse she received and disgrace he was bringing upon himself and family by his drunken revels. Katie was often awakened by these frightful scenes, more often, too, than her mother knew of, and oh, how she longed to go to her dear mother and take her part and to plead with her angry father to stop abusing dear, mother so! But she knew it would only make him the more angry, so she would lie as still as she could, shivering with fear, till his fit of madness was over and he would fall asleep.
"Katie," said little Eddie, trying to cheer his weeping sister, "can't God make papa good? You know mamma says He will make us good if we ask Him. Let's ask Him for papa."
"You ask him, Eddie. Perhaps Jesus will answer your prayer." At that moment her own faith seemed very dim, for had she not often prayed that her father might be better, and still he seemed to be getting worse every day. But still she did not wish to check the faith of her little brother, so together they knelt, while the little boy, with clasped hands and face upturned to heaven, plead earnestly that God would keep his dear papa away from those wicked places and make him stay at home evenings and be loving and kind as Katie said he used to be.
When Eddie's prayer was finished, Katie's faith was so increased that her petition was even more earnest than his, and she thought that she had never realized that her Heavenly Father was so near and so ready and willing to answer as at that moment. As they arose from their knees she clasped her little brother in her arms, and drawing him on to her lap, she told him of the dear, happy, by-gone days and that she believed the dear Lord would, somehow, bring them back again.
When the mother returned with her basket full of wood the fire was nearly out and she shuddered at the coldness of the room as the chilly wind swept through it; but as the children looked cheerful and happy, and did not seem to notice that it was colder than usual she said nothing, but quietly went about, spreading the table, with their scanty supply, for the evening meal. The children cheerfully kindled the fire, their minds busy with sweet thoughts of a brighter future. Mrs. Lee, too, for some reason unknown to herself, was dreaming of the past and hoping for happier days to come. Her mind went back to the time when all life's dreams were beautiful, when their pleasant home was such a happy one, and life was so sweet. But sickness entered their dwelling; the loving husband and father was stricken with disease and when he began to recover the physician advised him to take a certain quantity of liquor daily. He took the prescribed quantity for a time, but soon the dose was increased, an appetite for strong drink was formed, which completely overcame the man, mastering his better judgment and making him its willing slave. Day after day, as he passed the dram shop, going to and from his place of business, he would step in and take a drink; then, he began to spend his evenings there, among low and vulgar men whom once he would never have thought of associating with. Business was neglected, then entirely given up. When his money failed their lovely home was mortgaged for more, then sold to pay debts, after which they kept moving from poor to poorer quarters, till finally the miserable tenement house they now occupied was all they could call home.
Mrs. Lee often reproached herself now that she had not paid more attention to temperance work but then, she supposed her loved ones were safe from the tempter's dart. Had she given it more attention she would never have employed a physician in her family who was in the habit of prescribing liquors to his patients as Dr. Rock-ford, their physician, was. She had learned since that there were those who were even more successful in treating the same diseases who never use intoxicants themselves or give them to their patients. Mrs. Lee often wished now she could make others realize the terrible misery that this practice often brings; for since this trouble had come to her own home, she had found many others that had been wrecked in the same way by the same cause. If those physicians, she thought, could only see the sorrow they bring both to the patient and friends by using liquors for medicines, they would never give up the search till science had revealed something that could take its place, as a remedy, and bring none of the evil results that are likely to follow from this.
Mr. Lee was at the saloon as usual, but he had not tasted a drop of liquor for several hours, for his last cent was gone and no one seemed inclined to treat him to a glass, as they thought he would not be likely soon to return the compliment. They knew he had no money, and the bar-keeper had repeatedly refused to give him another drink without pay for it. At last the wretched man, almost maddened for the want of rum, started for his home, determined to find something there that he could dispose of to buy it and quench this terrible thirst that seemed eating his life away.
As he passed close by the window of his house he stopped and looked into the dreary looking room, wondering what there was there that would sell. But a strange sight met his gaze. He saw his children kneeling there, and his little six-year old boy with face upraised to heaven, earnestly praying. Drawing nearer he held his breath and listened till he heard enough to know they were praying for their drinking father, and ere. Katie's petition was ended, the weary, heart-sick man realized the misery he had brought upon those dear ones and he was ashamed to come before them. Stealthily he crept away to an old barn near by and sinking down upon a bunch of straw he reviewed his past life. Memory, that faithful monitor of the past, took him back to his child-hood days, when he, too, was wont to pray; and where now was that dear mother on whose knee he used to then sit and listen to hear her words as she talked of Jesus and of heaven? Was she looking from her home above upon her wayward son and pleading, as were his children, for his reformation? He could not tell; he only knew something whispered "pray," and conscience would not let him rest till he had sought forgivenness for past sins and help from his Heavenly Father to put all the good resolutions he had just formed into practice; and, as he went for strength to the great fountain of strength, it was granted him.
When Mr. Lee entered his home that evening, his wife noticed that he looked like a different man, and very kind was the greeting that she gave him, though she knew not the secret of his happiness. But the joy which shone from his countenance soon found expression in words. That night a family altar was erected there and the father and mother wept and prayed and talked together till late into the night; and as they kissed their sleeping children, the father said, "It is the prayer of these little ones that has saved me and in the morning they shall know that their prayers have been answered."
Very soon it was known that Mr. Lee had forsaken his old ways and wicked companions and was truly a converted man, trying to live a Christian life. Many kind, Christian friends then came forward to lend him a helping hand. It was not long before the miserable dwelling in which they lived was exchanged for a comfortable one. He was prospered in business; their home was surrounded with the comforts and many of the luxuries of life; Katie and Eddie attended Sabbath School, and whenever their faith in Christ grew dim, they would, in mind, go back to that night, in that dreary drunkard's home, and remember how the Lord had heard and answered their prayer and brought them out of great sorrow into great joy.
( Originally Published 1887 )
Sunny Side Sketches For Young & Old:
The Beggar Boy
The Drunkard's Home
Intoxicants In The Home
Out In The Storm
Grandmother's Letter Box
Rest At Last
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