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dared to be instrumental in working his ruin. Eight months of tippling had sufficed to convert a sane, healthy, and honest-working man into a shabby, sickly, lazy and weak-minded parody on that 'noblest work' of God, a man. But those around him, being mostly on a level with him, saw nothing alarming in the fact that the schoolmaster' gambled, drank, and spoke lewdly as they did themselves. Are men ever fools enough to break the lock of the box in which they keep their treasures? or do they open the vaults of their banks to thieves and robbers, bidding them welcome? And yet they do this very thing when they help to corrupt him into whose keeping they place their rarest jewels, their innocent children. Oh how strange and ludicrous inconsistency of human nature!”
“As the game progressed Joe grew more excited and nervous, and consequently lost quite regularly. His partner, a coarse, brutal fellow, of large stature and small intellect, but sharp and knowing enough in some things, was extremely angry at him, and in vexation at their losses he kicked the culprit's shins and trod on his toes until the unfortunate fellow yelled with pain, involuntary tears filling his eyes. Curses and jeers were poured upon him, but instead of showing just indignation he replied with quaint jokes and odd sayings. It was just this wonderful gift of ready wit, of mimicry and personation which amused the men, and which they loved to provoke. There are some who say that wit flashes most brilliantly when stimulated by liquor, but they forget to tell the sequel. Wit that originates in the gratification of a beastly appetite, soon loses its purity under the influence of spirits, and deals with proscribed subjects. If you have read the history of the poets Burns, Poe and Buerger, you will fully understand me. It proves that talents, those sublime blessings that bring about the elevation of mankind, may become a curse when not accompanied by a healthy and strong morality. Such men, like Burns and Buerger (and their number is legion, especially among the educated,) fascinate by their rare powers of conversation, their sparkling wit and droll humor; once aware of their powers to charm a circle of admiring friends, they fall easy victims to those who know how to'stimulate them. Vanity begins the conquest which intemperance generally finishes. But to these erring geniuses the time comes when the ill-used talents fade. What then? Who will then say, “ He was a man of genius, he wrecked himself for the amusement of others; let us still befriend him! Those who like himself persisted in the course that began so brilliantly, are similarly wrecked; those who left the downward path in good season, blush at the remembrance of their former counections, and keep him at a distance; others turn to swing the censer of adulation before some
new talent and forget the old. On him who is fallen, all the world casts stones, and the Leaviest ones come from those who helped to drag him into the dust."
“ Well, I think you are not quite wrong in that; those whe cajoled poor Joe most, are now his severest revilers," said Calker. “But then, he was no Burns, you know."
No, but he was a man, a weak and erring brother, and therefore, entitled to our aid, not to abuse at our hands. He was also a gifted man, and above all, the teacher of our children—the latter consideration alone ought to have entitled him to a different treatment. Had you, friend Pen, been present that evening, you would have blushed to acknowledge that man your colleague. I was almost on the point of leaving, when I overheard a conversation between two men
," said 66. That fellow,'
cne, 66. that's our schoolmaster.'» “ Him,'” replied the other, “he's a mighty poor looking one, I
"Oh, but he's gay for all that, I tell you. When he gets through playing he'll cut up. He's the funniest fellow alive--chuck full of mad pranks. He sings and acts just like one of those fellows as play on the stage, and he says the oddest things you ever heard.'”
“He may be smart enough that way,'" said the other, “but just now they cheat him rascally and he does not seem to notice it. I wonder he gets partners.'
"Well, you see, he dare not make a row if he does see they'er cheating him; he's something of a coward; besides, he has to pay all the forfeits; his partners never pay their share, and he's too much of a gentleman to ask it of them.'»
“ Just then one of the gamesters had shuffled the cards for a new game, when one of the men gave the table at which they were seated a push that sent the cards and glasses flying in all directions. Had any other man but our own boss here done such a thing, a row would have followed, but Calker can do a good many things that ordinarily offend in others, and have them considered jokes. A treat all round,' is a safe and sure plaster for injured feelings."
“ That's so, Parson! I have knocked off more than one man's hat, and punched his nose, and afterward obtained his pardon-and perhaps his vote-over a glass of peach brandy," laughed the boss. “Humanity is sometimes ticklish, but if all men were like you, Perkins, it would be a good deal more so."
“Well, Calker's action put an end to the card-playing, and a general restoration of the inner man ensued. Joe fairly overflowed with repar
tee and quaint remarks, and although he was treated by most men with an odd mixture of fellowship and contempt, which must have wounded his morbid sensibility, he masked whatever he felt with indifference, even joining in the frequent laugh at remarks aimed at him. Then he began to sing snatches of songs and witty couplets, interspersed with quotations and anecdotes. You must excuse me for saying it, Calker, but much of what he said and quoted was too good for his audience; it made me think of the casting of pearls before swine.' Only wit of a lower order is fully appreciated at Grogg's, though a higher kind of humor may fill its frequenters with a dim idea of a superior intellect.”
· By and by some of the men called for the song of the · Lady Nancee,' and after a couple of preliminary drinks Joe cleared his throat and the recitation of the comic song " Lord Dundreary.' His rendering of the words as well as the action were truly excellent. The representative of the noble lord rode through the room on a broom stick, and his final return to the · Lady Nancee' was inimitable. I have seen some very good comic actors, but I never saw one who did his subject more justice than Joe. I was not surprised now that the children were so eager to learn “pieces' at school, and that they spoke them so well; their teacher was master of the art of delivery. Joe had to repeat the song, and then others were sung. But the poor clown was beginning to show signs of increasing drunkenness and I left. I have seen but one or two closing scenes' of nights like the one I described, and their memory did not tend to keep me to witness another."
“On the following day I made another attempt to awaken the sunken man to the dangers of his course, but although he seemed to melt with shame, I knew there was no hope of his refcrming while he staid, and he refused to leave. And so he went on in the old track. Although he had forty dollars per month, and paid but twelve for his board, he was unable to buy a single article of clothing. Long before his wages were due all his money belonged to the inn-keepers, who took good care to get it. Ketcher treated the poor fellow like a bondsman, he even prevented him from going to Grogg's, in order that he might spend more money in his saloon.”
“Yes," interrupted Calker, “ that was towards the end of the term. He led a gay life then; although it was in the spring the weather continued cold, and he was getting so ragged and dirty that he was a sight, considering he was a schoolmaster. Ketcher had forbidden him to go to Grogg's, but what could the poor devil do? His way led him past the old sinner's den, and there were always a number of goodfellows lying in ambush there, who would drag him in. He knew that
he was being watched by Ketcher's children, so he went down to the river's bank, and following it, hidden by the bluff separating it from the village, he passed Grogg's unseen. Mrs. Ketcher, too, made it pretty hot for him; she utilized him whenever she could. He had to carry wood and water for her, tend the baby and a host of similer jobs. He was the most good-natured fellow in the world or he would not have stood the tyranny of that couple as long as he did."
“ Yes, and in the evening they utilized him in a different way–he was the chief attraction in the bar-room, and there, too, he was made to spend his money. 'Ere the cold spring had passed, he had hardly a shirt to his back, no stockings and no handkerchiefs, and his only suit of clothes was so worn and shabby that it was next to no protection. Order, discipline and progress had left his school-how could they be expected of a man so demoralized ? Poor Joe! The children did not help to sweeten life for him. Whenever he napped in the school (and, it occurred almost daily) they made themselves masters of the school; then he would thrash the boys furiously when, awakened by their noise, he found them ir mischief. The very appearance of the man whose clothing was past the limits of decency, scandalized the older children, many of whom left school on that account, and because the teacher was, even in school, under the influence of liquor—and the fathers of these very children frequented the tavern and drank the vile stuff for which the teacher paid! As he had no changes of linen, I was not surprised to hear that he was literally swarming with vermin. This latter fact nearly procured him a dismissal, but Ketcher stayed public indignation, and gave the poor fellow a pair of old boots still sound at the toes, an old overcoat and a couple of shirts."
“Yes, and a good shampooing into the bargain,” said Calker. “ Ketcher could not afford to lose him just then, you see, so concluded to make a sacrifice. I met Joe the next day. Why, Joe,' says I,
you have a bran new suit I see; got them at Brown's, I suppose.' He grinned, and whispered, 'Ketcher, you know, was out of change, so I took them, fit or no fit. He's a good fellow, anyway, and so obliging,' and he pointed at his closely shaved head.”
“But,” continued Perkins, “ this improvement was too superficial to turn the tide that was running against him. His popularity which had begun to pale, was fast changing to its opposite, for his jokes and songs, his flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table in a roar, had grown stale and ceased to amuse; his money was spent in advance; he was in debt, at last, and credit began to be withheld, and so his former friends—if such men may be termed thus—began to treat him with growing disrespect. Only a few who, like himself, were too good na
tured to desert him, continued to associate with him and to pay for his drinks. By the time his term at school ended, he found himself not only without money, but also with shattered health.”
· Well, Perkins,” put in the boss," he found friends in his extremity. Ketcher and Groggs helped him out of his troubles; when he had come to the end of all his means and had neither the strength nor the courage to look around for work, he, like the lost son, remembered his home and made up his mind to go home and obtain his father's pardon. His friends knew that his family was respectable and well off, so they made a final speculation, fitted Joe for his journey and gave him money enough to reach his home. He vowed eternal gratitude and promised to refund the money lent to him, but week after week passed and no letter or money arrived. His creditors began to grow suspicious, then angry, then furious. Finally they wrote to him, in pleasant terms, though, for fear of offending him and thus losing the extra bonus which they expected. No answer came, so they wrote again, this time in more decided terms, demanding what he owed them. It was quite a while before an answer came, but it was not by poor Joe himself—his father wrote. He informed the gentlemen' that his son Joseph, who had come home ill and in poor condition, was drowned soon after his return while bathing, and as he had never mentioned 'his business connections to his father, and from what the latter had learned from other sources concerning his son's relations to the gents,' he, the father, felt justified in not satisfying their claims. He was convinced (so ran the letter) that this indebtedness was owing to circumstances which, for the sake of all concerned, had better be left undisturbed. That was the last we ever heard of him, and I think the old man served the greedy sharks just right!”
“So do I,” said Perkins; “no doubt he was well aware of his son's career while away from home. His letter, which bore the stamp of good breeding and christian forbearance, contained nothing stronger than a mild reproof, which makes us pity all the more the wayward child of such a father. As for poor Joe--may the turf be light above him.” Even the jolly boss had grown serious at the close. “I say
amen'to that, Perkins,” he said. “ Joe might have been a good and happy man; he had splendid talents. But he was too weak, you see, and once on the wrong way, nothing could stop him. Had he taken up any other vice than drinking, it would have been all the same. The fault was in him-he ought to have governed himself."
“ And does that prove that vice of any or every kind need not be suppressed because the weak become its victims? We regulate the sale of poisons that kill right off, because we consider their free use dangerous; why not suppress the sale of slower poisons as well?”