FROM A BOY TO A DRUNKARD:

THE SAD STORY OF OLD JOE

BY MRS. L. D. AVERY-STUTTLE

Nicest boy I ever saw

Was sipping cider through a straw.

Soon he thought to get some cheer

He ought to drink a glass of beer

Then he just could not dine

Unless he had a glass of wine

Soon he thought the folks quite dumb

Who would not taste a shot of rum.

Now his brain and life are  shot -

And people say, "He's just a sot!"

 GRANDMA DUNCAN lived with her three grandchildren in a pleasant village nestled among the green hills of New Hampshire. Grandmother had a habit of taking the children, Bertha, Max, and Henri, out for a walk over the hills, on pleasant days, and much the children enjoyed these rambles.

"There is nothing," grandmother used to say, "that I so desire as to see the children of my dear daughter (who left them to my care,) grow up to be good and virtuous."

Grandmother's hair was white as snow, but her eyes were as bright and blue as the skies, her voice was soft and tender, and the children of the whole neighborhood loved to listen to her quaint stories of the time when she was a child ; while to Bertha, Max, and Henri, grandmother was very dear.

One afternoon, when the May flowers were showing their pretty, fresh faces on the hills and meadows, and the sun was shining brightly, they all went for their accustomed walk. The children soon filled their baskets with trailing arbutus, jonquils, and soft mosses, and just as the sun was setting, grandma and little Bertha strolled leisurely homeward, while Max and Henri hurried on before.

"You shall be Queen of the May, grandma, dear," laughed Bertha, "See, I shall crown you with these pretty jonquils as soon as we are home."

Just then Max and Henri came running back panting and quite out of breath, both eager to tell what they had just seen over the hill. "O grandma!" began Henri, "there is a poor man lying asleep by the bridge, all covered with mud--"

“Yes," added Max, "yes, and his face is red and specked, and--O Henri, did you notice that his old battered hat was floating around in that pool of muddy water by his side?"

"I'm afraid it is poor Joe Brandon," sighed grandma. "Let us hasten; perhaps we maybe able to help him. He may be really ill, --though much I fear he has stayed too long at the Red Lion," as the one saloon in the village was named.

By this time poor Joe had awakened from his drunken stupor, and was staggering on toward his wretched home as fast as his unsteady legs would carry him. His filth-covered coat was reeking with slime and mud, which constantly dripped over his ragged trousers, while his wet and battered hat, which the poor fellow had contrived to rescue from the pool, was slouched far over his face. His gray hair and beard were long and matted, and his eyes were bleared and bloodshot.

The children shrank as far away from him as possible, as he reeled past them, and all the laughter and pleasant mirth had gone out of their voices, while little Bertha's face had grown quite white.

"I cannot blame you, my dears, for shunning the wretched man, and yet he was not always so," sighed grandma.

"Why grandma," protested Henri, who thought himself quite a man, "he has been a poor drunkard ever since I can remember,-- and that is ever and ever so many years, --why just think; I am almost twelve years old."

"Yes, but you know, my dear, I can remember very many more years than that,--and I knew poor old Joe when he was no more than five years old. And a sweet, charming child he used to be."

"O grandma! please tell us about it," cried the children excitedly, "please do!"

So as soon as they were home and well rested, they gathered around grandma's great rocking chair. Henri had kindled a fire in the grate, for it was rather cool, and now they waited to hear the story she had promised to tell them.

"Well, my children," she began, "it is quite true that I knew poor old Joe when he was a sweet, innocent child,--I was a child myself, then,"--and grandmother gazed dreamily at the red flames as they chased each other up the chimney.

"Yes, he was a sweet, innocent child," she repeated; "Nobody called him 'Old Joe,' then. He was the only son of my father's dear friend, and I was his playmate while we were children."

"O grandmother!" said little Bertha. "How could he ever grow to be such a bad man?"

"It was not all at once, my child, but little by little.

You remember the tiny seed you planted in the pot last year and how we watched it day by day as it grew slowly. Don't you remember how it put out first one little green leaf after another until it became a tall, strong plant?"

"Yes, grandma, it was so small I thought it would not grow at first, but I watered it and kept it in the sunny window, and now it's quite a big tree."

"Well, my child, it is just so with bad habits. They grow just as fast as weeds.”

" I will try to tell you all about it, my children, though it is a long story. I hope you will listen thoughtfully, for poor old Joe's life story is almost the same as that of many thousands of poor drunkards in this rum-cursed land."

"0 grandma! are there thousands of people as miserable and wretched as this poor man?" questioned Henri, opening his brown eyes wide ; "It doesn't seem at all possible. I'm so sorry for them," he continued, for Henri had a very tender heart and was full of sympathy for every one in trouble.

'"I hope you will be sorry for them," replied grandma, "so sorry that you will do all in your power, as long as you live, to help them to lead better lives and to shun the very first step toward a life of intemperance and shame; for you must not forget, my boy, that no man becomes a worthless sot in a day or a month or even a year. In this, as in everything else, the little things are those which count. Indeed, life is made up of little things,-- little duties neglected, little deeds undone, little burdens unborne,-- these all help to make a careless, selfish, unlovely character.

"I remember that poor Joe was very selfish as a lad, and this most undesirable trait grew upon him as the years went by, until finally he would not scruple to do anything mean, or rude, or anything dishonest, if thereby he might gratify his appetite."

"What do you think the poor old man would have said," questioned Max, "when he was a young boy, to have seen a picture of himself as he looked to-day, wallowing in the mud, just like the big pig in Mr. Brown's meadow! " and Max shuddered.

"He would have been greatly shocked, I dare say, but I almost question whether, then, he would have been willing to quit his selfish and gluttonous habits; for poor Joe was a great glutton, even when a small boy," explained grandma, "though, as I have said, he was a bright and lovable little fellow."

"A great glutton!" repeated Max wonderingly. "I supposed a glutton was a person who ate too much food. I didn't think that the kind or amount of food a person ate had anything to do with his becoming a drunkard. Does it grandma?" And Max awaited the reply of his grandma with some anxiety, for he was very fond of sweets and rich pastry.

"Yes, yes, my child; the kind and quantity of food we eat has very much to do with the making or spoiling of our lives."

"Joe's father and mother were good people, who tried to bring their little boy up to control his appetite; for they were wise and prudent, and well knew the evil effects of gluttony upon both body and soul. But they died when Joe was very young, and left him to the care of his aunt.

"Aunt Maggie was a good woman, but she made a great mistake in allowing Joe to eat anything and everything he wanted, and at any time he pleased. She seemed to forget that the stomach needs rest as well as the other parts of the body, when we are tired."

"Isn't that queer?" laughed Bertha. "I never thought of it in that way before."

"Many people either forget or do not know that this is true," continued grandma, "and overload their poor, tired stomachs, and force them to work when they are weary and need rest, until they become weak and wretched and full of disease.

"Joe was very fond of sweetmeats," continued grandma, looking hard at Max, "but at first, he contented himself with coaxing his aunt for them. But when he grew larger, he did not always wait to ask for candies and preserves and rich cake. Aunt Maggie, as we called her, kept a large supply of rich and highly seasoned food constantly on hand, and when Joe was ashamed to ask for any more, he would manage to steal as much as he wanted from the cupboard. This he did quite often, and it troubled me not a little," and grandma sighed.

“Why didn't you tell your mother or Aunt Maggie of the young rascal?" interrupted Henri, who scorned anything like falsehood or theft.

"I feared that he would not play with me if I did; but I have regretted my childish thoughtlessness many times; for perhaps if I had been more faithful in doing what I could for him, poor Joe might not now be the miserable wreck he is."

"Just think of our grandmother ever wanting to play with that horrible old creature!" exclaimed Bertha, "though of course he was not always so; but I can't see, yet, grandma, what all this has to do with making poor Joe a drunkard. Will you tell us?"

"If you will be patient, my child. It is quite a long story, and I want you to be fully impressed with its truthfulness, and to understand me.

"One day I went over to play with Joey, as we children used to call him. I was only about five years old, and Joey was six. My parents thought him a good child, and since he was the son of my father's best-loved friend, they allowed me to play with him very often.

"Aunt Maggie had a jar of choice preserves, and another jar of highly seasoned and spiced pickles. These she kept in the cupboard on a high shelf, out of reach of naughty, mischievous fingers. That day after we had become tired of our blocks and marbles, Joey asked Aunt Maggie for a dish of preserves. She very kindly gave us each a dish, with some bread and butter, and shortly afterward, put on her bonnet to go down the street. She did not forget to caution us not to get into any mischief.

"But as soon as she was out of sight, Master Joey decided to have as many cookies and plates of preserves as he wanted. At once he climbed into a high chair and helped himself. I was never allowed such freedom as this at home, and in my childish way, tried to explain to my play-fellow that it was wrong. But he paid small heed to my words and ate until he became quite sick.

"By this time Aunt Maggie had returned, and though poor Joey tried hard to deceive her as to the cause of his illness, the greedy boy had quite forgotten to wash his face, which, in his haste, had become smeared with preserves.

"Aunt Maggie made him drink a cupful of bitter herbs, and I ran home to my mother." 

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