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  ― 100 ―

Between Two Bottles.

(A Christmas Sampling Sketch.)

MORNING at last! The night has been long—long. Thunder!—no water in the jug! Well, I must have—but what's the use? Let me gaze out of the window. The sun-rays gild the door of the pub. opposite. I can see them playing hide-and-seek among the decanters. Ah, Tantalus, Tantalus, you had an easy time of it compared to me. All your trouble was to be up to the chin in water and not be able to get a draught of it, while mine!—I don't care if there never was water any more! What I want—there comes a man out of the bar wiping his mouth with his coat-sleeve and smiling. Scoundrel! He'll probably be whirling drunk before noon, while I—but there; some people have the luck of it! Hold! I'll have another hunt through my clothes. I must have something; I couldn't have been such a blazing jackass as to spend all I had last night and leave myself without the price of a drink in the morning. I have been. I could with pleasure sit down now and curse monotonously all created things for an hour


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by Shrewsbury clock. But, again, what's the use? No Eau de Cologne left! If there had been I might have fixed up a drink from that. Kerosene I can't drink at any price. Took a deadly hatred to it when staying in back-block hotels. Well—if it must be, it must be—the tap.

How the hours have passed beats me. It is now after 10 o'clock. I would, as Heine says, give thirty-six little monarchs, if I had them, for one stiff glass of absinthe—aye, or even rum. To think that I have become so degraded! I that used to be the white-headed boy of the Sunday-school, and was once patted on the head by the Pope's Legate. It is—ugh! I must drown these thoughts. Ma-ri-a! another bucket of water. From this moment no more rum for me. There is nothing in it. An hour or two of excitement, perhaps—then madness—maudlin muddle, and—oblivion. Next morning—the furies! Life is too short for it. In future I shall abjure it, and go in for calm enjoyment and the cup that cheers. In the meantime I shall suffer and be strong. Ha! ha! Ho! ho! I should like to see the man, or even a picture of him, who could get me to drink anything intoxicating now. I would give him an order on my salary for half-a crown. I would——

A knock. Hem! I had better have a look at my visitor through the venetian before I open the door. He can't take possession unless I open it. It's only the office-boy. A letter—and a parcel. Wonder what's in the parcel! Feels confounded heavy. Better open the letter first. Um! “You mentioned some time ago that you had a theory that different liquors produced different results on the human system.” The devil I did! Then I ought to know. The knowledge has cost me enough to build a church. “We therefore send you two bottles of whisky—one Scotch, one Irish—which please sample, and give us your practical experience of how your theory works. Copy must be in to-morrow morning first thing.” It can't


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be done—no, not if I never write another line. What? Am I a weather-cock—a Jim Crow—to go back on moral principles at the bidding of an editor? Never. Lie there in that corner, ye two tempters, and I will send ye back again to where ye came from as soon as the Rufus-headed Phyllis has done peeling the potatoes. But, no; ye shall stand upon the table and I shall defy ye. Gods! Am I a sentient being with a will of my own—or a brainless ape, to be afraid of two bottles of what I know to be liquid poison? Ha, ha! We shall see. We shall see.

Um! There's no harm in opening the parcel just to see what the brands are. This is not a sign of weakness; it is a test of strength. Besides, I am curious to see what sort of liquor they have foisted upon the editor. Hum! The old thing—Walker and Dunville, first-class whiskies when they are good. I would just like to know if these are the genuine thing. There is so much swindling now-a-days you can never be sure of a liquor till you have sampled it. But I have an oath—an oath in Heaven! Still, one small taste won't hurt me. In fact, it will steady my nerves a bit. After this, though——

I have taken a thimbleful from each, and I can't see much difference. My palate must be crooked somehow. But then you can never get the taste of whisky properly unless you take a good stiff drink of it. I don't like to, but in the interests of science, and for the sake of the editor, I'll sacrifice myself for once. Um! Irish—fine mellow liquor, with just enough fire in it to send a glow through one; Scotch—good clean spirit, with a reek in it, smoked to a nicety. Now, Messieurs Barleycorn, you will be corked up and set aside till Maria has time to take you back. I like not your luring looks. Gadzooks, am I to be made a jest of by two miserable bottles of whisky? Go—get ye under the bed lest some weak-minded friend of mine come in, and ye tempt him.




  ― 103 ―

I feel a lot better since I took those two drinks. After all, it is absurd nonsense for a man, when he has been drinking, to “put the plug in” suddenly. More than that—it is dangerous. I read in the paper the other morning of a man who dropped dead through having—after a long bout—given up his liquor all at once. I can tell you it was a warning to me. The thing should be done gradually. Say four, or even five, drinks the first day; three the next; two the third day, and the fourth day none. I know there are people who say that such a plan of recovery is trifling with the enemy, and that a man who starts to taper off thus is likely to go home barking the first night, and to sit out in the park baying the moon the second. But it is a mystery to me how anyone with a mind of his own can't control himself to this extent. I can't understand it. Now, let me see. I ought to eat something. If I could get something devilled I might manage it. Ho, ho! in a boarding-house. Devilled hash I might get, or I should, perhaps, say bedevilled. (This liquor must be getting into my head.) I'll take a turn into the kitchen and have a chat with the cook. … She is making soup out of corned beef and plate-cleanings! She is, by the Prophet! No more soup for me. Pah! the smell of it. I must take a drink to deaden it. And while I am at it I may as well carry out my instructions and take two.

Ha! I begin to feel myself my own man again. Wonderful liquid! Potent necromancer! Why shouldst thou raise us up to Olympian heights only to dash us into the gutter, and get us forty-eight hours without the option? But, thank goodness, I have done with all that kind of foolishness. If I do take a drink—and when I come to think of it calmly, the man who can't trust himself to take a drink or two and stop at that is a poor creature—I'll take it to do me good and leave off when I think more of it might hurt me. Besides, good liquor never harmed anybody. It's


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only those wretched adulterated compounds that send men into lunatic asylums and early graves. The men who sell such stuff ought to be compelled to paint over their doors—“Licensed Toxicologist.”

I had better get to work now and finish that article at once. But—it makes me laugh to think of it!—I've clean forgotten the difference in the taste of the two whiskies. If I am to analyse the sensations produced by each, I had better try two or three glasses of one sort at a time and then put down in writing how I feel. No fear of me getting too far gone. I can stand more whisky than one man out of a hundred. But I do wish I hadn't to write to-day. It's a ghastly thing that when a man feels nice and comfortable, and inclined to look upon life with a mellow eye, he should have to sit down and slave for a paper. If I had only enough money to buy a raft with a house on it I'd give up writing and live on fish. My lines would all be fishing-lines and cast in pleasant places—somewhere about the Bottle and Glass, or off Taylor Bay at times. And I'd never wish to see a paper any more, though I suppose I could hardly help getting the DAILY IMPERIAL FEDERATIONIST AND GOVERNMENT HOUSE CHRONICLE now and then wrapped round bait. It is a fine journal to wrap worms in—it has such a crawling style of its own! That would be the life for me. Hence, vain vision! Mocking dream, begone!

Just had three goes of Scotch, one after another. I feel like a giant refreshed. Never properly realised my own strength before. I believe I could knock a hole through the panel of the door with one blow. Don't mean to try, though—cost too much to square the damage. A man may have a few drinks in him, but that's no reason why he should be extravagant. The man who is extravagant is an ass, and the man who does not profit by his extravagance is a greater one. Sloshing money around may


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amuse your mad-headed Irishmen, but a man of common sense sees no fun in it—for him to do it! I don't mean to say that when I meet a friend I wouldn't ask him to take a drink for the sake of Auld Lang Syne, but I hold with Robbie Burns—

“Surely you'll be your pint stoup
As sure as I'll be mine.”

This inspires me. Now I will sing you an auld Scots sang I made myself. I am going to have it set to a soft and melancholy air, and dedicate it to Sir——one of these days. Give ear now:—

Jean M'Fadzean.

(Air—“Bonnie Charlie's Noo Awa.”)

Jean M'Fadzean, Bonnie Jean,
Flower o' the M'Fadzean clan,
Auld M'Fadzean grat his een
When awa wi me she ran.

Auld M'Fadzean grat his een
Till I thoct his hairt wad brak;
Jean M'Fadzean, bonnie Jean,
Wad tae Heev'n he had her back.

I never knew before I could write in the “braid Scottish tongue” so well. It must be something in the whisky. Still, I am as sober as a tombstone. Drink, somehow, seems to have no effect on me. I think I'll try a fall with the Irish bottle now.

Have often tried a fall with it and knocked it over the ropes in four rounds. It's a lovely liquor; but it little knows the kind of man it has to reckon with if it thinks it can send me under. Why, I remember Barney Kelly, Pat O'Connor, Dennis Kilpatrick and myself making a wager that we could drink potheen for three days as fast as old Larry Rogan, who kept the private still in Quigley's Gap, could turn it out; and we won, and were each of us able to dance a jig on the top of a gate-post at the finish, though Larry, who hadn't tasted a drop all the time, was as drunk as a blind piper on the smell of it! What do you


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think of that now? Yerra! I'll give you a song of my own. Easy now, and keep time with your brogues:—

Pat M'Laughlin.

(Air—“Finnegans Wake.”)

Yerra, Pat M'Laughlin was a hayro,
Faix he wuz the Divel's limb,
Nayther Punchus Pilate, boys, nor Nayro,
Cud a candle hould to him.
Wanst he shot a landlord dead, sirs,
Divel shoot the lot o' thim!
Twice he bruk a bailiff's head, sirs,
Pat was full o' fun an' whim.

But at last the base, black-hearted Saxon
Caught poor Paddy dhrunk one day,
An'—the divel dam thim!—widout axin'
By yer lave, tuk him away.
'Twas in the could month o' Decimber
They shipped him out to Bot'ny Bay.
Yerra! now he is a Parlimint mimber,
Fwhat they call an M.L.A.

CHORUS.—Then fut it up and down the middle,
Crack your heels and pound the flure;
Keep up Kelly wid the fiddle,
Dance, ye divels—Home Rule's share!

Had another Scotch. Two friends of mine were in a minute ago. Stuck the liquor under the bed.

Had a go of Irish. Called them back. Both Fenians. In my opinion Parnell is the greatest man of the century. My grand father was a King—whoop!

[To the Editor BULLETIN. Sir,—The jintilman wot rote this left it in his boots, so I took the libberty of sending it by my girl.]

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