That night I returned to Rushville, and while mad with liquor, made an attempt on my life by cutting my throat. Well for me that my knife was dull and did not penetrate to the jugular artery. The wound self-inflicted was an ugly but not dangerous one. I kept on drinking for a week or more, until I found that it was utterly out of my power to resist drinking so long as I remained in a place where I could see, or buy, or beg whisky. I finally went to the sheriff and asked him to lock me up in jail, which I finally persuaded him to do. Once in jail I tried in vain to get more liquor. I remained there until the fierce fires of my appetite smouldered once more, and then I was released. I lay in bed sick several days at this time, sick in mind, soul, and body. I felt that for me there was nothing left. I had descended to the lowest depths. I was forever ruined and undone. Many who had said that I would not or could not stop drinking seemed to be delighted over my terrible misfortune. The smile with which they would say, "I told you so!" was devilish and fiendish. But many friends gathered about me and cheered me with hope that by renewed effort I might rise again. Well and truly did a great English poet, Campbell, I believe, say:—
"Hope springs eternal in the human heart."
I determined once more that I would not give up, I would fight my tireless enemy while a breath of life or an atom of reason remained in my being.
It was now July, 1874. An exciting political campaign was coming off, the main issue was "local option." I took the side and became an advocate of local option, and until the election in October, averaged one speech per day, frequently traveling all night in order to meet my engagements. That campaign broke me down completely, and on the first of November I again yielded, after a prolonged and desperate struggle, to the powers of my sleepless and tireless adversary. So terrible were the consequences of this fall that in the hope of preventing others from ever indulging in the ruinous habit which led to it, I wrote out and published a full account of it under the title of "Luther Benson's Struggle for Life." Inasmuch as this book will be incomplete without it, I will embody that brochure in the next chapter, so that those who have never read it may now do so, if they desire.
Struggle for life—A cry of warning—"Why don't you quit?"—Solitude, separation, banishment—No quarter asked—The rumseller—A risk no man should incur—The woman's temperance convention at Indianapolis—At Richmond—The bloated druggist—"Death and damnation"—At the Galt House—The three distinct properties of alcohol—Ten days in Cincinnati—The delirium tremens—My horrible sufferings—The stick that turned to a serpent—A world of devils—Flying in dread—I go to Connersville, Indiana—My condition grows worse—Hell, horrors, and torments—The horrid sights of a drunkard's madness.
Depraved and wretched is he who has practiced vice so long that he curses it while he yet clings to it; who pursues it because he feels a terrible power driving him on toward it, but, reaching it, knows that it will gnaw his heart, and make him roll himself in the dust. Thus it has been, and thus it is, with me. The deep, surging waters have gone over me. But out of their awful, black depths, could I be heard, I would cry out to all who have just set a foot in the perilous flood. For I am not one of those who, if they themselves must die the death most terrible and appalling of all others, would drag or even persuade one other soul to accompany them. But as the oblivious waves are surging about me, and as I try to brave and buffet them, I would cry to others not to come to me. When but just gasping and throwing up my hand for the last time, it would not be to clutch, but, if possible, to push back to safety. Could the youth who has just begun to taste wine, and the young man his first drink—to whom it is as delicious as the opening scenes of a visionary life, or the entering into some newly-discovered paradise where scenes of undimmed glory burst upon his vision—but see the end of all that, and what comes after, by looking into my desolation, and be made to understand what a dark and dreary thing it is for a man to be made to feel that he is going over a precipice with his eyes wide open, with a will that has lost power to prevent it; could he see my hot, fevered cheeks, bloodshot eyes, bloated face, swollen fingers, bruised and wounded body; could he feel the body of the death out of which I cry hourly, with feebler and feebler outcry, to be delivered; could he know how a constant wail comes up and out from my bleeding heart, and begs and pleads with a great agony to be delivered from this awful demon, drink; could these truths but go home to the hearts and minds of the young men of the land; could they feel for but one single moment what I am compelled to live, and battle, and endure day in, and day out, until the days drag themselves into weeks that seem like months, and months that seem like years, striving all the time, a living, walking, talking death, and cares, pleasures, and joys, all gone, yet compelled to endure and live, or rather die, on; could every young man feel these things as I am compelled to feel and bear them, it seems to me that it would be enough to make them, while they yet have the power to do it, dash the sparkling damnation to the earth in all the pride of its mantling temptation.
At the very threshold of blooming manhood I found myself subject to all the disadvantages which mankind, if they reflected upon them, would hesitate to impose upon acknowledged guilt. In every human countenance I feared to find an enemy. I shrank from the vigilance of human eyes. I dared not open my heart to the best affections of our nature, for a drunkard is supposed to have no love. I was shut up within my own desolation—a deserted, solitary wretch in the midst of my species. I dared not look for the consolation of friendship, for a drunkard is always the subject of suspicion and distrust, and is not supposed to be possessed of those finer feelings that find men as friends. Thus, instead of identifying myself with the joys and sorrows of others, and exchanging the delicious gifts of confidential sympathy, I was compelled to shrink back and listen to the horrid words, You are a drunkard—words the very mention or thought of which has ten thousand times carried despair to my heart, and made me gasp and pant for breath. Thus it was at the very opening of life, and thus it ever has been, and thus it is to-day. I have struggled, and with streaming eyes tried to wrench the chains from my bruised and torn body. My weary and long-continued struggles led to no termination. Termination! No! The lapse of time, that cures all other things, but makes my case more desperate. For there is no rest for me. Whithersoever I remove myself, this detestable, hated, sleepless, never-tiring enemy is in my rear. What a dark, mysterious, unfeeling, unrelenting tyrant! Is it come to this? When Nero and Caligula swayed the Roman scepter, it was a fearful thing to offend the bloody rulers. The Empire had already spread itself from climate to climate, and from sea to sea. If their unhappy victim fled to the rising of the sun, where the luminary of day seems to us first to ascend from the waves of the ocean, the power of the tyrant was still behind him; if he withdrew to the west, to Hesperian darkness and the shores of barbarian Thule, still he was not safe from his gore-drenched foe. Rum! Whisky! Alcohol! Fiend! Monster! Devil! Art thou the offspring in whom the lineaments of these tyrants are faithfully preserved? Was the world, with all its climates, made in vain for thy helpless, unoffending victim?
To me the sun brings no return of day. Day after day rolls on, and my state is immutable. Existence is to me a scene of melancholy. Every moment is a moment of anguish, with a trembling fear that the coming period will bring a severer fate. We talk of the instruments of torture, but there is more torture in the lingering existence of a man that is in the iron clutches of a monster that has neither eyes, nor ears, nor bowels of compassion; a venomous enemy that can never be turned into a friend; a silent, sleepless foe, that shuts out from the light of day, and makes its victim the associate of those whom society has marked for her abhorrence; a slave loaded with fetters that no power can break; cut off from all that existence has to bestow; from all the high hopes so often conceived; from all the future excellence the soul so much desires to imagine. No language can do justice to the indignant and soul-sickening loathing that these ideas excite. A thousand times I have longed for death, and wished, with an expressible ardor, for an end to what I suffered. A thousand times I have meditated suicide, and ruminated in my soul upon the different means of escaping from my load of existence. A thousand times in wretched bitterness I have asked myself, What have I to do with life? I have seen and felt enough to make me regard it with detestation. Why should I wait the lingering process of an unfeeling tyrant that is slowly tearing me to pieces, and not dare so much as die but when and how the marble-hearted thing decrees? Still, some inexplicable suggestion withheld my hand, and caused me to cling with desperate fondness to this shadow of existence, its mysterious attractions, and its hopeless prospects—appetite, fiendish thirst, a burning, ever-crying demand for a poison that is death, and for which a man will give his body and soul as a sacrifice to whoever will satisfy his imperious cravings. Let this appetite entwine itself about a man, let it throw its iron arms about his bruised body, and he will curse the day he was born. But some one says, Why don't you quit? Just don't drink! In answer I would say, O God, give me poverty, shower upon me all the hardships of life, turn me a prey to the wild beasts of the desert, so I be never again the victim of rum. Suffer me to call life and the pursuit of life my own, free from the appetite for alcohol, and I am willing to hold them at the mercy of the elements, the hunger of beasts, or the revenge of cold-blooded men. All of these, rather than the poison of the accursed cup.
Solitude! separation! banishment! These are words often in the mouths of human beings; but few men except myself have been permitted to feel the full latitude of their meaning. The pride of philosophy has taught us to treat man as an individual. He is no such thing. He holds, necessarily, indispensably, a relation to his species. He is like those twin births that have two heads and four hands, but if you attempt to detach them from each other, they are inevitably subjected to a miserable and lingering destruction. If a man wants to conceive a lively idea of the regions of the damned, just let him get himself in that condition that he is alone with an enemy while he is surrounded by society and his friends—an enemy that is like what has been described as the eye of Omniscience pursuing the guilty sinner and darting a ray that awakens him to a new sensibility at the very moment that otherwise exhausted nature would lull him into a temporary oblivion of the reproaches of his conscience. No walls can hide me from the discernment of my hated foe. Everywhere his industry in unwearied, to create for me new distress. Never can I count upon an instant of security; never can I wrap myself in the shroud of oblivion. The minutes in which I do not actually perceive and feel my destroyer are contaminated and blasted with the certain expectation of speedy interference. Thus it has been, and thus it is to-day, and with every returning day.
Tyrants have trembled, surrounded by whole armies of their janizaries. Alcohol—venomous serpent! robber and reviler!—what should make thee inaccessible to my fury? I will unfold a tale! I will show thee to the world for what thou art, and all the men that read shall confess my truth! Whisky—abhorrer of nature, the curse of the human species!—the earth can only be freed from an insupportable burden by thy extermination! Rum—poisoner! destroyer! that spits venom all around, and leaves the ground infected with slime! Accursed poison-makers and poison-dispensers!— do you imagine that I am altogether passive; a mean worm, organized to feel sensations of pain, but having no emotion of resentment? Did you imagine that there was no danger in inflicting on me pains, however great; miseries, however direful? Do you believe me impotent, imbecile, and idiot-like, with no understanding to contrive my escape and thy ruin, and no energy to perpetrate it? I will tell the end of thy infernal works. The country, in justice, shall hear me. I would that I had the language of fire, that my words might glow, and burn, and drop like molten lava, that I might wipe you from the face of the earth, or persuade mankind to turn away and starve you to death. Think you that I would regret the ruin that had overwhelmed you? Too long I have been tender-hearted and forbearing. Whisky, whisky sellers and whisky makers, traffickers and dealers in tears, blood, sin, shame, and woe!—ten thousand times you have dipped your bloody talons in my blood. There is no evil you have scrupled to accumulate upon me! Neither will I be more scrupulous. You have shown me no mercy, and you shall receive none.
Let us look at the rumseller, that we may know what manner of man he is, and then ask if he deserves the pity, sympathy, or respect of society, or any part of it. Viewed considerately, in the light of their respective motives, the drunkard is an innocent and honorable man in comparison with the retailer of drinks. The one yields under the impulse—it may be the torture—of appetite; the other is a cool, mercenary speculator, thriving on the frailties and vices of others. He is a man selling for gain what he knows to be worthless and pernicious; good for none, dangerous for all, and deadly to many. He has looked in the face the sure consequences of his course, and if he can but make gain of it, is prepared to corrupt the souls, embitter the lives, and blast the prosperity of an indefinite number of his fellow-creatures. By the selling of his poisons he sees that with terrible certainty, along with the havoc of health, lives, homes, and souls of men, he can succeed in setting afloat a certain vast amount of property, and that as it is thrown to the winds, some small share of it will float within his grasp. He knows that if men remain virtuous and thrifty, if these homes around him continue peaceful and joyous, his craft can not prosper. The injured old mothers, the wives, and the sisters are found where rum is sold. Orphan children throng from hut and hovel, and lift their childish hands in supplication, asking at the hands of the guilty whisky sellers for those who rocked their cradles, and fed and loved them. The murderer, now sober and crushed, lifts his manacled hands, red with blood, and charges his ruin upon the men who crazed his brain with rum. The felon comes from his prison tomb, the pauper from his dark retreat, where the rumseller has driven him to seek an evening's rest and a pauper's grave. From ten thousand graves the sheeted dead stalk forth, and with eyeless sockets and bared teeth, grin most ghastly scorn at their destroyers. The lost float up in shadowy forms, and wail in whispered despair. Angels turn weeping away, and God, upon his throne, looks in anger, and hurls a woe upon the hand which "putteth a bottle to his neighbor's lips to make him drunken." To balance all this fearful array of mischief and woe, flowing directly from his work, the dealer in ardent spirits can bring nothing but the plea that appetite has been gratified. There are profits, to be sure. Death finds it the most liberal purveyor for his horrid banquet, and hell from beneath it is moved with delight at the fast-coming profits of the trade; and the seller also gets gain. Death, hell, and the rumseller—beyond this partnership none are profited. Go and shake their bloody hands, you who will! The time will be when deep down in hell these miserable, blood-stained wretches will pant for one drop of water, and curse the day and hour that they ever sold one drop of liquor.
The experience of ages proves that the use of intoxicating agents invariably tends to engender a burning appetite for more; and he who indulges in them shall do it at the peril of contracting a passionate and rabid thirst for them, which shall ultimately overmaster the will of his victim, and drag him, unresisting, to his ruin. No man can put himself under the influence of alcoholic stimulants without incurring the risk of this result. It may not be perceptible at once. It may be interrupted, and while the bonds are yet feeble he may escape. But let the habit go forward, the excitement be often repeated, and soon a deep-wrought physical effect will be produced; a headlong and almost delirious appetite, of the nature of a physical necessity, will have seized the whole man as with iron arms, and crushed from his heart the power of self-control.
My whole nature was almost constantly demanding and crying out for stimulants. During the period that I abstained from them, and for two weeks before I touched or tasted them the last time, my agony was unbearable. In my sleep I dreamed that I was drinking, and dreamed that I was drunk. Day by day my appetite grew fiercer and more unbearable, until in my misery I walked my floor hour after hour, unable to sleep, and feeling that if I lay down I should die. One night, about a week before I yielded, I walked my room until midnight, suffering the torments of hell. I felt that I was dying, and rushed out of my room and walked and ran across fields and through the woods, panting and gasping for breath. I felt that my head was bursting to pieces. My blood boiled, and hissed, and foamed through my veins. I could feel my heart throb and beat as though it would burst out of my body. At that time I would have torn the veins of my arms open, if I could have drawn whisky from them. When light came, I found that I had walked and run seven miles since leaving my room at midnight. All that day I was burning up for liquor. Had I been where I could lay my hands on it, a thousand times that day I would have drank though it steeped my soul in rivers of death.
In just this condition I went to Indianapolis to address the Woman's Temperance Convention. I felt that I would drop dead before I finished my speech. That night I did not sleep more than an hour, and that was a miserable hour of sleep, in which I dreamed that I was drunk. I woke up with a burning thirst, and sharp pains darting through my brain. The very least noise would send a new pang to my head, and when I attempted to walk, my own footsteps would jar upon my brain as though knives were driven through it. The next day and night I fought it like a tiger, but my thirst only increased, and then one gets tired at last of fighting an enemy all day, knowing that he must confront that same enemy the next day, and the next, for one can not live always on a strain, always in fear, and doubt, and dread. The next day I started for Richmond, where I had business, intending to go from there to Cincinnati and Covington, and thence East. I got to Richmond, haunted, every inch of the road, with an inexpressible longing for stimulants. When I got there, I knew that I was where I could get a little rest from my intense suffering, for I could get whisky. When the thought of what would be the result of touching it forced itself on my mind, my agony was so terrible that I could feel the sweat streaming down my face, and I could have wrung water from my hair.
If ever there was a man in ruins, a perfect spectacle of utter desolation, I was that man, as I stood in the depot at Richmond, burning up for whisky. Had I been standing on red-hot embers my sufferings could not have been more intense. I feel that I can almost hear some one say, "Why did you not pray? just go and ask God to help you." I have been told to do that ten thousand times by good-meaning men and women, who do not know how to pray as I do, and never will until (which God forbid) they have suffered as I have. I did pray, and beg, and plead for mercy and help, but the heavens were solid brass and the earth hard iron, and God did not hear or heed my prayers. Talk about having the appetite for stimulants removed by prayer! That appetite is just as much the part of a man as his hand, heart, brain, or any other part of his body. Every one of God's laws are unchangeable and immutable. The day of miracles is over. When one of God's creatures violates his laws, he must pay the penalty; and I think it would be far better to educate the rising generation that there is no escape for them from the consequences of their acts, than to preach them into the belief that they may for years pursue a course of dissipation, violate every law of their being, and then by prayer have the chains of habit stricken off and be restored whole.
Then there is another class of individuals who have said to me, "When you get into that condition, when you feel that you must have liquor, why don't you just take a little in moderation?" Moderation! A drink of liquor is to my appetite what a red-hot coal of fire is to a keg of dry powder. You can just as easily shoot a ball from a cannon's mouth moderately, or fire off a magazine slowly, as I can drink liquor moderately. When I take one drink, if it is but a taste, I must have more, if I knew hell would burst out of the earth and engulf me the next instant. I am either perfectly sober, with no smell f of liquor about me, or I am very drunk. Some of those moderate drinkers, who are increasing their moderation a little every day, and also some pretended temperance people, who are always suspicious of others, because they are sneaking, cowardly, sly, deceitful and treacherous themselves, are constantly asking me if I do not drink a little all the time. And then they say I use morphine and opium. There is nothing that has made me more wretched, and done more to weaken and drag me down, than the continued accusation of doing something that it is just as impossible for me to do as it would be to live without breathing; that is, to take a drink of liquor without getting drunk. And if there is any one thing that will make me hate a man—loathe, abhor, and despise him—it is to have him accuse me of drinking or using any kind of stimulants regularly and moderately. I just want to say here, now, and for all time, that they who thus accuse me, lie in their teeth, mouth, throat, and away down deep in their dirty, cowardly, craven, black hearts.
I walked from the depot in Richmond—or, rather, almost ran—until I came to a drug store kept by a young man I have known for five or six years. He keeps nearly all drugs in barrels, well watered, and drinks them regularly, and, as he calls it, moderately. That is to say, he has not been sober for five years. Always full, bloated, imbecile, idiotic—has no idea of quiting himself, and would suffer as keenly as any brute is capable of suffering, at the thought of any one else who is in the habit of drinking becoming a sober man. When I went in, he was leaning back in a chair dozing, dreaming, drunk, or as drunk as that kind of a man generally gets. I asked him for whisky. He straightened up, and a more fiendish gleam of joy than lit up his brutal face never sat upon the hideous countenance of a fiend fresh from hell. He got up to get me the liquor, saying at the same time, "I will bet you five dollars you are drunk before night." I looked at him, saw the smile of joy, and the intense pleasure that my getting drunk was going to afford him. Suffering, choking, and almost bereft of reason, as I was, his look and act caused me to hesitate and wonder what manner of man it was that was so utterly base and heartless as to rejoice at the ruin of one whose continued prayer is to live and die sober. Then and there I prayed God to deliver me from such friends, and keep me from their accursed influence. Hell knows no blacker deformity than that which would drag a fellow-creature again to degradation. Satan was as much a friend of human happiness when he slimed into Eden. In my very youth, I made a resolve that I never would, knowingly, stand in the path of any man and a better life: that I would never do anything to prevent a man from leading a better life, and I have never broken that resolution. I gathered strength and courage enough, by a desperate effort, to get out of the store without drinking, and started in an opposite direction from where anything was kept to drink.
I had gone but a short distance, when there was no longer any enduring of the torture. I turned back and went into another drug store, and told the proprietor that I was sick, and asked him for whisky with some kind of medicine in it. The man who gave it was not to blame, for he knew nothing about me, nor the fiendish thirst with which I was possessed; and while he was not more than a minute getting the liquor for me, it seemed an age, and when I took the glass, I read "death" in it just as plainly as ever "death" was written upon the field of battle. I hesitated a moment, while something whispered, "Death!" I struggled, but could not let go of the glass. I felt the hot, scalding tears come in my eyes. I thought if I could only die—just drop dead; but I could not, yet I felt that I was dying ten thousand deaths all the time! I lifted the glass and drank death and damnation! I drank the red blood of butchery and the fiery beverage of hell! It glowed like hot lava in my blood, and burned upon my tongue's end. A smouldering fire was kindled. A wild glow shot through every vein, and within my stomach the demon was aroused to his strength. I had now but one thought, but one burning desire that was consuming me—that was for more drink! It crept to my fingers' ends, and out in a burning flush upon my cheek. Drink!—DRINK! I would have had it then if I had been compelled to go to hell for it! But I got it just one step this side the regions of the damned. I went to a saloon and commenced to pour it down, and continued until I was crazed. All power over my appetite was gone; I was oblivious to everything around me. I took the train for Cincinnati. I have a dim, shuddering remembrance of some parties at the depot trying to keep me from taking the cars. I don't know who they were, or what they said. I got to the city that night, and staid at the Galt House. I have no remembrance of anything from the time I left Richmond until I awoke next day about ten o'clock, with an aching head, swollen tongue, burnt, black, parched lips, and a thirst for whisky that was maddening. Death would have been kindness compared to what I suffered that morning.
And here let me ask the reader to indulge me for a while, that I may explain just the condition I was in, both physically and mentally. I know just how much charity I am to expect and receive from the corrupt wilderness of human society, for it is a rank and rotten soil, from which every shrub draws poison as it grows. All that in a happier field and purer air would expand into virtue and germinate into usefulness is converted into henbane and deadly nightshade. I know how hard it is to get human society to regard one's acts as other than his deliberate intentions. But of being a drunkard by choice, and because I have not cared for the consequences, I am innocent. I can say, and speak the truth, that there is not a person on earth less capable than myself of recklessly and purposely plunging himself into shame, suffering and sin. I will never believe that a man, conscious of innocence, can not make other men perceive that he has that thought. I have been miserable all my life. I have been harshly treated by mankind, in being accused of wickedly doing that which I abhor, and against which I have fought with every energy I possessed. The greatest aggravation of my life has been that I could not make mankind believe, or understand, my real and true condition. I can safely affirm that a blasted character, and the curses that have clung to my name, have all of them been slight misfortunes compared to this. I have for years endeavored to sustain myself by the sense of my integrity; but the voice of no man on earth echoed to the voice of my conscience. I called aloud, but there was none to answer; there was none that regarded. To me the whole world has been as unhearing as the tempest, and as cold as the iceberg. Sympathy, the magnetic virtue, the hidden essence of our life, was extinct. Nor has this been the whole sum of my misery. The food so essential to an intelligent existence, seemed perpetually renewing before me in its fairest colors, only the more effectually to elude my grasp and to attack my hunger. Ten thousand times I have been prompted to unfold the affections of my soul, only to be repelled with the greatest anguish, until my reflections continually center upon and within myself, where wretchedness and sorrow dwell, undisturbed by one ray of hope and light. It seems to me that any person but a fool would know that I had not purposely led the life of misery that has marked my steps for fifteen years. It would have been merciful in comparison, if I had planted a dagger in my heart, for I have suffered an anguish a thousand times worse than death. I would have had liquor that morning at Cincinnati if I had known that one single drink would have obliterated my body, soul, and spirit. I had no power to resist; and to prove that I was powerless, let us see what effect alcohol, in its physiological aspect, exerts.
Alcohol possesses three distinct properties, and consequently produces a threefold physiological effect.
1. It has a nervine property, by which it excites the nervous system inordinately, and exhilarates the brain.
2. It has a stimulating property, by which it inordinately excites the muscular motions, and the actions of the heart and blood-vessels.
3. It has a narcotic property. The operation of this property is to suspend the nervous energies, and soothe and stupefy the subject.
Now, any article possessing either one, or but two of these properties, without the other, is a simple and harmless thing compared with alcohol. It is only because alcohol possesses this combination of properties, by which it operates on various organs, and affects several functions in different ways at one and the same time, that its potency is so dreadful, and its influence so fascinating, when once the appetite is thoroughly depraved by its use. It excites and calms, it stimulates and prostrates, it disturbs and soothes, it energizes and exhausts, it exhilarates and stupefies simultaneously. Now, what rational man would ever pretend that in going through a long course of fever, when his nerves were impaired, his brain inflamed, his blood fermenting, and his strength reduced, that he would be able, through all the commotion and change of organism, to govern his tastes, control his morbid cravings, and regulate his words, thoughts and actions? Yet these same persons will accuse, blame, and curse the man who does not control his appetite for alcohol, while his stomach is inflamed, blood vitiated, brain hardened, nerves exhausted, senses perverted, and all his feelings changed by the accursed stuff with which he has been poisoning himself to death, piecemeal, for years, and which suddenly, and all at once, manifests its accumulated strength over him. In sixteen months I have fought a thousand battles, every one more fearful than the soldier faces upon the field of conflict, where it rains lead and hails shot and shell, and I have been victorious nine hundred and ninety-eight times. How many of these who blame me would have been more successful? A man does not come out of the flames of alcohol and heal himself in a day. It is struggle and conflict, and woe; but at last, and finally, it is glorious victory. And if my friends will not forsake me, I will promise them a victory over rum that shall be complete and entire. I have neither the heart nor the desire to attempt a description of my drunk at Cincinnati. Those who have never been in that condition could not understand it; and to those who have, it needs no description.
I was at the Galt House for about ten days, and during all that time I was as oblivious to all that was passing as if I had been dead and buried; I did not know day from night. I have no remembrance of eating anything during the whole time I was there. I only remember a burning thirst for whisky that seemed to be consuming me. The more I drank, the more I wanted. After the first four nights I could get no sleep, so I just staid up and drank all night, until, for the want of slumber, my whole body was torn with torment for long days and nights. I knew from former experience what was the awful ending! None who have ever even seen a victim cursed with delirium tremens will ever wish to look upon the like again. No human language can describe it; but its scenes burn in the eyeball so deeply that they never pass away. During the time, all the dread enginery of hell is planted in the victim's brain and he subject to its terrible torments. Most persons laugh at the idea of one having the tremens, and think it a sign of weakness. But there is more disgrace and shame for the man who can drink liquor to intoxication for ten years, and escape the drunkard's madness, than there is for the man who has had the tremens two or three times during that period. Tremens are brought about by the effects of the liquor upon the brain and nerves, and the less brain or nerves a man has the less liable he is to be a subject of the tremens. While in this situation the victim imagines that everything is real, and thinks and believes every object he sees actually exists. With this explanation, I will now proceed to tell what I have seen, felt, and heard, while in that condition.
I had felt the delirium tremens coming on for two or three days. I was just standing on the verge of a mighty precipice, unable to retrace my steps, and shuddering as I involuntarily leaned over and looked down into the vortex which my wild and heated imagination opened before me; and I could see the lost writhe, and hear them howl in their infernal orgies. The wail, the curse, and the awful and unearthly ha! ha! came fearfully up before me. I had got into that condition that not one drop of stimulants would remain on my stomach. I had been vomiting for more than forty-eight hours every drop that I drank. In that condition I went into a saloon and asked for a drink; and as I tremblingly poured it out, a snake shot its head up out of the liquor, and with swaying head, and glistening eye looking at me, licked out its forked tongue, and hissed in my face. I felt my blood run cold and curdle at my heart.
I left the glass untouched, and walked out on the street. By a terrible effort of my will, I, to some extent, shook off the terrible phantom. I felt that if I could get some stimulants to remain on my stomach I might escape the terrible torments that were gathering about me; and yet, at the very thought of touching the accursed stuff again, I could see the head of that snake, and could hear ten thousand hisses all around me, and feel it writhing and crawling through every vein of my body; while at the same time I was scorching and burning to death for more whisky. At that time I would have marched across a mine with a match touched to it; I would have walked before exploding cannons for more liquor. I went to another saloon, thinking I might get a drink to stay on my stomach, and steady my nerves, and give me strength to get home before I died; for I felt that this time there could be no escape from death. This time I was afraid to touch the bottle, and stood back, shaking and shuddering in every limb, while the murderer poured out the whisky; and again that liquor turned to snakes, and they crawled around the glass, and on the bar, and hissed, writhed, and squirmed. Then in one instant they all coiled about each other, and matted themselves into one snake, with a hundred heads; and from every head glittering eyes gleamed, and forked tongues hissed at me. I rushed from the saloon, and started, I did not know or care where, so that I might escape my tormentors. I had walked but a short distance, when a dog as large as a calf sprang up before me, and commenced to growl and snap at me. I picked up a stick about three feet long, thinking to defend myself; but just as soon as I took that stick in my hand, it turned to a snake. I could feel its slimy body writhe and squirm in my hands, and in trying to hold it to keep it from biting me, every finger-nail cut like a knife into the palm of my hand, and the blood streamed down over that stick, that to me was a living snake. Hell is a heaven compared to what I suffered at that time.
At last I dashed the cursed thing from me, and ran for my life. I got to some depot, I don't know what one, and took the cars. I didn't know or care where I went; at about ten miles above Cincinnati I left the cars. At times, for a little while, I could reason and understand my condition. I found, on looking around, that I was in a little town, where a young man lived who had been a college mate of mine. I went and told him my condition, and he did for me everything that one friend can do for another. But as night came on my tormentors returned in ten thousand hideous forms, and drove me raving mad. I went to a hotel, and there they persuaded me to lie down. Just as soon as I got to bed I reached my hand over, and it touched a cold, dead corpse. The room lighted up with a hundred bright lights, and that corpse, that now appeared to me like nothing that had ever been visible in human shape, opened its large, glassy, dead eyes, and stared me in the face. Then its whole face and form turned to a demon, and its red eyes glared at me, and its whole face was full of passion, fierceness and frenzy. I shrank back from the loathsome monster. On looking around, I beheld everything in my vision turn to a living devil. Chairs, stand, bed, and my very clothes, took shape and form, and lived; and every one of them cursed me. Then in one corner of my room, a form, larger and more hideous than all the others, appeared. Its look was that of a witch, or hag, or rather like descriptions that I had read of them. It marched right up to me, with a face and look that will haunt me to my grave. It began to talk to me, saying that it would thrust its fingers through my ribs, and drink my blood; then it would stick out its long, bony, skeleton-like fingers, that looked like sharp knives, and ha! ha! Then it said it would sit upon me and press me to hell; that it would roast me with brimstone, and dash my burnt entrails into my eyes. Saying this, it sprang at me, and, for what seemed to me an age, I fought the unearthly thing. At last it said, "Let me go!" and when it did, it glided to the door, and as it went out, gave me a fiendish look, and said, "I will soon be back, with all the legions of hell; I will be the death of you; you shall not be alive one hour." I left my room, and just as soon as I touched the street I stepped on a dead body. The whole pavement and street were filled; men, and women, and little children, lying with their pale faces turned up to heaven; some looked as though they were asleep; others had died in awful agony, and their faces wore horrid contortions; while some had their eyes burst from their heads. Every time I moved I stepped on a dead body, and it would come to life, and rear up in my face; and when I would step on a baby corpse it would wail in a plaintive, baby wail, and its dead mother would come to life and rush at me, while a thousand devils would curse me for stepping on the dead. I would tremble and beg, and try to find some place to put my feet; but the dead were in heaps, and covered the whole ground, so that I could neither walk nor stand without being on a corpse. If I stepped, it was on a dead body, and it would rise up and throw its arms about me, and curse me for trampling on it; and it was in this way that I put in that whole night.
When light dawned the horrible objects disappeared to some extent, and by a terrible effort I was able to control my mind, and reason on my condition. I was weak, nervous, and sick. I thought I would eat something, and try to gain a little strength. The very moment that I sat down to the breakfast table, every dish on that table turned to a living, moving, horrid object. The plates, cups, knives and forks became turtles, frogs, scorpions, and commenced to live and move toward me. I left the table without eating a bite. I went back to the city that day. I had but just got there when I wanted some whisky. I took a drink. During the day I drank as many as twenty glasses of liquor, and by evening I had got myself so steadied that I took the cars for home. I got as far as Connersville, where I remained during the balance of my drunk. I kept drinking for three or four days, and then commenced to vomit again. By this time I had got so weak that it was with the greatest effort that I could stand on my feet or walk one step. I felt the madness coming on again with tenfold fury. My terrible fear gave me more strength. I left the house, and started out on the road, and in an instant I was surrounded by what seemed a million of demons and devils; it seemed as though hell had opened up before me. The earth burst open under my feet, and hot, rolling flame was all around me. I could feel my hair and eyebrows scorch and burn; then in a moment everything would change. I could hear a thousand voices, all talking to me at the same time, and every one threatening me with some horrid death; then I would be surrounded with wild animals, fighting and tearing each other to pieces, and glaring at me, while devils told me they would tear me to pieces; then a tiger took my whole arm between his bloody jaws, and mashed and mangled it to pieces, and tore that arm from my shoulder; then some fiend, in the shape of an old hag, would come up and pour red-hot embers into the bleeding wound, from which my arm had been torn. When I screamed in agony, devils would laugh a horrid, devilish laugh. I looked down and saw a jug of liquor at my feet, and when I reached down to get it I heard the click of a hundred pistols, and a grinning black devil threw his claws over the jug; then devils and witches boiled the whisky. I could see it on the fire, and hear it seethe and foam; then they danced around me, and said they had the liquor so hot that it would scald me to death; then they pried open my mouth, and poured it down my throat. I could feel my brain bursting out of my head, as that boiling liquor scalded and burned my tongue out of my mouth, and that tongue turned to a snake, and with forked tongue hissed at me.
The next thing I found myself standing on a railroad track; I could just see the headlight of the engine and hear the faint rumble of the cars, and when I tried to move off the track I found I was tied with a hundred ropes. It seemed to me there were a hundred devils up in the air, and each one had hold of a rope that was wound around my body in such a way that I could not move. The cars were coming closer and closer, faster and faster; the light of the engine looked like one horrid eye of fire; I could hear the rattle and rush of a thousand wheels; it was coming right on me with the rapidity of lightning. I could feel the beating of my heart, and my hair stood up and shook and shivered. The engine ran up to me and stopped, the hot smoke and steam choking and smothering me. The devils cursed and howled because the cars did not run over me; they said the next time there would come sure death; then they opened the doors of the engine, and threw in cats and dogs, men, women, and children. I could hear them scream as the hot flames wrapped themselves about them, until they would burst open; and that engine was red-hot. I could see the grin of skeleton demons, as, with a horrid curse, they motioned the engine to move back; and back, back it went, until I could just see a faint light; then, at the wild, cursing, screaming command of my tormentors, I could hear the cars coming again, faster and faster, closer and closer, and that engine ran at me just that way all night. It seemed just as real, and my sufferings were just as intense, as if it had been a reality. When morning came the devils left me, swearing that they would come back at night, and thus I was tortured all day with the dread of what was coming again at night. That day, as I was walking, hens and chickens would turn into little men and women; they were dressed up in bloody clothes; they would surround me, and pick my body full of holes; then they would pick my eyes out, and I could see my eyes dropping from their bloody bills.
When night came I went to my room. I could hear voices talking in all parts of the house. They would gather about me and whisper and talk about some way in which they would kill me; then the windows would be full of cats, and I could feel little kittens in my pockets; and when I walked I would step on kittens, and they would mew, and the old cats would howl and burst through the windows, and claw me to pieces. Then devils would take live, howling, squalling cats, and pound me with them until I was surrounded and walled in with dead cats. The more I suffered, and the harder I tried to escape, the more intense seemed their joy. The room would be full of every loathsome insect; they would crawl, fly, and buzz around me, stinging me in the face and eyes. Then the room would fill with rats and mice, and they would run all over me. Then ten thousand devilish forms would all rush at me. There were human forms of every size and shape. Some of them had the face and look of a demon, and from every part of the room their eyes glared at me; others had their throats gashed to the very spine, while every one of them accused me of being the cause of their misery. Then devils and men would rush at me and pin me to the wall of my room, by driving sharp, red-hot spikes through my body. I could see and feel the blood streaming from my wounds until my clothes were covered with it. Then they would take red-hot irons, and burn and scrape my flesh from my bones. They would pull and tear my teeth out, and dash them in my face. Then they would take sharp, crooked knife blades, and run them through my body, and tear me to pieces, and hold up before my eyes my bleeding, burned and quivering flesh, and it would turn to bloody, hissing snakes. Then I looked and could see my coffin and dead body. Then I came back to life again, and I heard voices under my head cursing me, and saying that they would bury me alive. At this the devils seized me, and I could feel myself flying through the air. At last they stopped, and I heard a heavy door open. They dragged me into what they told me was a vault, and, when I tried to escape, I found nothing but solid walls. The floor was stone, and slippery and slimy. I could hear rats and mice running over the floor. They would run up my sleeves and down my neck. In trying to escape from them I struck a coffin; it fell on the hard stone floor and burst open; then the room lighted up, and the skeleton from the burst coffin stood up before me, and a long, slimy snake crawled up and wrapped the skeleton to the very neck; and that horrid thing of bones, with a living snake coiled all about it, walked up to me and laid its bony fingers on my face. No language can give the least idea of the horrid sights and sufferings in the drunkard's madness.
Recovery—Trip to Maine—Lecturing in that State—Dr. Reynolds, the "Dare to do right" reformer—Return to Indianapolis—Lecturing—Newspaper extracts—The criticisms of the press—Private letters of encouragement— Friends dear to memory—Sacred names.
After recovering from the debauch just described, which I did in the course of two or three days, I went East to the State of Maine, where I remained about three months, lecturing in all the principal cities, and in some of them a number of times. In Bangor, especially, I was warmly welcomed, and I spoke there as often as ten times, each time to a crowded house. Dr. Reynolds, the celebrated "Dare to do right" reformer, was at that time a resident of Bangor, and I had the honor to make his acquaintance. While in Bangor I made my headquarters at his office, and was much benefited and strengthened by coming in contact with him. Days and weeks passed, and I did not taste liquor, although at times, when depressed and tired from over-work, I found it difficult in the extreme to resist the cravings of my appetite.
I returned to Indianapolis in the spring of 1875. I remained in Indiana, lecturing almost daily, or nightly, until autumn, when I again started East on a lecturing tour, which lasted eight months. During this time I averaged one lecture per day. At times, for the space of an entire week, I did not get as much sleep as I needed in one night, and the work I did in those eight months was enough to break down the strongest and healthiest constitution. I spoke in all the more notable cities and towns of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. With regard to my success, I will let the Eastern press speak for me. It is not from any motive of vanity that I insert the following notices of the papers, but from a wish to establish in the minds of my readers the fact that my labor was earnest, and not without good results. These extracts are not given in the order in which they appeared; I insert them, taken at random, from hundreds of a similar character. The first is from the Boston Daily Advertiser:
"Mr. Luther Benson, of Indiana, delivered a temperance lecture last evening in Faneuil Hall, before a large and enthusiastic audience. * * *
"The meeting was opened with prayer by the Rev. Mr. Cooke, of the Hanover Street Bethel, after which, Mr. E.H. Sheafe introduced the lecturer. The temperance theme is so old and long discussed that it seemed well-nigh impossible to present its merits in a new and attractive way, but Mr. Benson in a simple, straightforward manner, in language clothed with the peculiar western freedom of speech, together with an accent of marked broadness, held the undivided attention of his audience from the beginning of his lecture to the close. The several stories told by the speaker seemed to exactly suit the temper of his hearers, as the frequent applause testified, and altogether it was probably one of the most satisfactory temperance lectures ever delivered in this city. Mr. Benson, who is a reformed drunkard, describes his trials and struggles in overcoming the evils of intemperance in a very impressive manner, awakening a strong interest for the cause which he pleads.
"During his lecture Mr. Benson paid a marked compliment to the old hall in which he was speaking, and the liberty of speech allowed within its portals. Total Abstinence was the one thing needed throughout the land. There could be no such thing as moderate drinking. Prohibition should be enforced, and great results would necessarily follow."
From the Boston Daily Evening Traveler I clip this concerning my lecture at Chelsea:
"Hawthorn Hall was crowded to the very gallery last evening with an audience assembled to listen to a lecture on temperance by Luther Benson, Esq., of Indiana. Mr. Benson is one of the most powerful and eloquent orators that have ever stood before an audience. For one hour and a half he held his audience by a spell. He painted one beautiful picture after another, and each in the very gems of the English language. He was many times interrupted by loud bursts of applause. Words drop from his lips in strains of such impassioned eloquence that they go directly to the hearts of the audience, and his actions are so well suited to his words that you can not remember a gesture. You try in vain to recall the inflection of the voice that moved you to smiles or tears, at the speaker's will. Mr. Benson is a young man and has only been in the lecture field a little over one year; yet at one leap he has taken the very front rank, and is already measuring strength with the oldest and ablest lecturers in the country."
The next is from the Boston Daily Herald:
"TEMPERANCE AT FANEUIL HALL.
"The old cradle of liberty was filled last evening by a large and appreciative audience, assembled to hear Luther Benson, a well-known temperance advocate from Indiana. Mr. E.H. Sheafe, under whose auspices the lecture was held, presided, and the platform was occupied by the Rev. Mr. Cook, who offered prayer, and by Messrs. Timothy Bigelow, Esq., F.S. Harding, Charles West, John Tobias, S.C. Knight, and other well-known temperance workers in this city. Mr. Benson is a reformed man, and, speaking as he did from a terrible experience, he made an excellent impression, and proved himself an orator of tact, talent and ability. A number of his passages were marked with true eloquence and pathos, and for an hour and a quarter he held the closest attention of his large audience in a manner that could only be done by those who are earnest in the cause, and appeal directly to their hearers."
From the Dover (N.H.) Democrat, this:
"Luther Benson, Esq., spoke to the largest audience ever gathered in the City Hall, last night. Notwithstanding the snow, more than fourteen hundred people crowded themselves in the hall, while hundreds went away for want of even standing-room. He has created a perfect storm of enthusiasm for himself in the cause he so earnestly and eloquently advocates. Last night was Mr. Benson's fourth speech in this city, each one delivered without notes or manuscript, and with no repetition. He goes from here to Great Falls and Berwick. Next Sunday he returns to this city, and speaks here for the last time in City Hall at half past seven o'clock. There never has been a lecturer among us that could repeatedly draw increased audiences, and certainly no man—not even Gough—ever so stirred all classes of our people on the subject of temperance as has Benson. The receipts at the door last evening were about one hundred and forty dollars. A number who had purchased tickets previous to the lecture were unable to get in the hall."
And this from the Pittsburg (Pa.) Gazette:
"Luther Benson, Esq., of Indiana, has just closed one of the most powerful temperance lectures ever delivered here. The house was one solid mass of people, with not one spare inch of standing-room. For nearly two hours he held the audience as by magic. At the close a large number signed the pledge, some of them the hardest drinkers here. The people are so delighted with his good work that they have secured him for another lecture Wednesday evening."
The next extract is from the Manchester (N.H.) Press:
"Smyth's Hall was completely filled, seats and standing room, at two o'clock Sunday afternoon, with an audience which came to hear Luther Benson. The officers of the Reform Club, clergymen and reformed drunkards occupied seats upon the platform. Mr. Benson is a native of Indiana, and says he has been a drunkard from six years of age. He was within three months of graduation from college when he was expelled for drunkenness. Then he studied for a lawyer, and was admitted to practice, being drunk while studying, and drunk while engaged in a case. At length he reduced himself to poverty, pawning all he had for drink. At length he started to reform, and though he had once fallen, he was determined to persevere. Since his reformation two years ago he had been giving temperance lectures. He is a young man, a powerful, swinging sort of speaker, with a good command of language, original, with peculiar intonation, pronunciation and idioms, sometimes rough, but eminently popular with his audiences. He spoke for an hour and a half steadily, wiping the perspiration from his face at intervals, taking up the greater part of his address with his personal experience. He said he had had delirium tremens several times, once for fifteen days, and gave an exceedingly minute and graphic description of his torments. A number of men signed the pledge at the close of the meeting, Among them was one man, who sat in front of the audience and kept drinking from a bottle he had, evidently in a spirit of bravado, but at the conclusion of the address he signed the pledge, crying like a child."
From the Saltsburg Press, of Pennsylvania, I copy the following:
"On Monday evening, 29th inst., the people of our staid and quiet little town had their dormant spirits stirred to their inmost depths, by an eloquent and thrilling lecture delivered in the Presbyterian church by Luther Benson, Esq., a native of Indianapolis, Indiana, who chose for his topic "Total Abstinence." He opened his lecture by delineating in the most touching and beautiful language the almost heavenly happiness resulting in a total abstinence from all intoxicating beverages, and by his well-aimed contrasts demonstrated that, in the use of those beverages, even in a temperate degree, there was but one result—drunkenness and eternal death. He was no advocate of temperance; that is, the temperate use of anything hurtful. Did not believe that anything vicious could be tampered with, without harm coming from it. He argued to a final and satisfactory conclusion, that in the use of alcoholic beverages there could be no such thing as temperance; that the man who took a drink now and then would make it convenient to take more drinks now than he would then, and in the end would as surely fill a drunkard's grave as the man who persistently abused the beverage in its use. His description of the two paths through life was a most beautiful word picture. That of sobriety leading through bright green fields, over flowery plains, by pleasant rivulets, where all was peace and harmony, and over which the spirit of heaven itself seemed to brood and watch; and that of drunkenness, in which all the miseries and tortures of the imaginary hell were concentrated in a living death; of blighted hopes, of wasted life, of ruined homes, of broken hearts, of a conscience goaded to an insanity—to a madness—to fairly wallow in the Lethean draft, that memory might be robbed of its poignant goadings; that the poor, helpless, and degraded victim might escape its horrors in oblivion.
"He had been a victim in the toils of the monster for fifteen years; had endured all the horrors it inflicted upon its votaries during that time, and made an eloquent appeal to the young men present to choose the right way and walk therein. He pictured the inevitable result in new and convincing arguments holding up his own almost hopeless case as a warning. His description of delirium tremens, while it was frightful, was not overdrawn. He told the simple truth, as any one who has passed through the horrible ordeal can testify.
"We have not space to follow Mr. Benson through his lecture, which was truly original in language, style and delivery. He is a lawyer by profession, about twenty-eight years, and is wonderfully gifted with a pleasing way, rapidly flowing and eloquent language, that carries to the audience the conviction that he is in earnest in the work of total abstinence; that in the effort to reclaim himself he will leave nothing undone to save those who may have started out in life impressed with the belief that there is pleasure and enjoyment under the influence of intoxication. That he will accomplish good there is no doubt. He goes into the work under the influence of the Holy Spirit; maintaining that the grace of God alone can work a thorough reformation. We have heard Gough lecture, but maintain that the eloquent, forcible, humorous, pathetic, and convincing language of Mr. Benson is of a better and higher order, and will prove more effectual in touching the hearts of those who stand upon the verge of ruin.
"Mr. Benson will lecture this (Tuesday) evening, in the Presbyterian church. Doors open at 6:30; lecture commencing at 7:30. The lecture this evening will be on a different subject, and no part of the lecture of last evening will be repeated.
"As a result of the lecture Monday evening, one hundred and sixty-two persons signed the pledge."
With reference to the lecture delivered at Faneuil Hall, the Boston Temperance Album gives the succeeding synopsis:
"Mr. Benson, on being introduced, paid the following eloquent tribute to the Hall:
"Ladies and gentlemen: It is with emotions such as I have never experienced upon any former occasion, that I stand before you to-night in this, the birthplace of American liberty. It was in this hall that was first inaugurated the grand march of revolution and liberty that has gilded the page of the history of our time with the most glorious achievements of the patriot that the world has ever had to admire. It was here that was inaugurated those immortal principles that caused revolution to rise in fire, and go down in freedom, amid the ruins and relics of oppression. It was here that the beacon of liberty first blazed, and the rainbow of freedom rose on the cloud of war; and as a result, of the patriotism and heroism of our forefathers, liberty has erected her altars here in the very garden of the globe, and the genius of the earth worship at her feet. And here in this garden of the West, here in this land of aspiring hope, where innocence is equity, and talent is triumph, the exile from every land finds a home where his youth may be crowned with happiness, and the sun of life's evening go down with the unmolested hope of a glorious immortality. Who is not proud of being an American citizen, and walking erect and secure under the Stars and Stripes?
"If there be a place on earth where the human mind, unfettered by tyrannical institutions, may rise to the summit of intellectual grandeur, it is here. If there be a country where the human heart, in public and in private, may burst forth in unrestrained adulation to the God that made it, it is here, where the immortal heroes and patriots of more than one hundred years ago succeeded in establishing these United States, as the 'land of the free and the home of the brave.' Here, then, human excellence must attain to the summit of its glory. Mind constitutes the majesty of man, virtue his true nobility. The tide of improvement which is now flowing like another Niagara through the land, is destined to flow on down to the latest posterity, and it will bear on its mighty bosom our virtues, or our vices, our glory, or our shame, or whatever else we may transmit as an inheritance. Thus it depends upon ourselves whether the moth of immortality and the vampire of luxury shall prove the overthrow of this country, or whether knowledge and virtue, like pillars, shall support her against the whirlwinds of war, ambition, corruption, and the remorseless tooth of time. And while assembled here to-night, in this, the very cradle of liberty, let us not forget that there are evils to be shunned and avoided by us as individuals and as a common people.
"It is about one of these evils that is threatening the stability, prosperity, and happiness of this whole country that I would talk to you to-night. Let us approach near to each other and talk, if possible, soul to soul, and heart to heart, I would talk to you to-night of liberty, that liberty that frees us, body, soul, and spirit, from the slavery of the intoxicating bowl; a slavery more soul-wearing and life-destroying than any Egyptian bondage. Why, it is but a few years ago that this whole continent rocked to its very center on the question as to whether human slavery should endure upon its soil! That was but the slavery of the body, a slavery for this life; and that was bad enough, but the slavery about which I talk to you is a slavery not only of the body, but of the soul, and of the spirit; a slavery not only for this life, but a slavery that goes beyond the gates of the tomb, and reaches out into an infinite eternity. The slavery of intoxication, unlike human slavery, is confined to no particular section, climate, or society; for it wars on all mankind. It has for its home this whole world. It has the flesh for its mother and the devil for its father. It stands out a headless, heartless, eyeless, earless, soulless monster of gigantic and fabulous proportions."
As a very few persons have said my labors in the cause of Temperance were not, and are not, productive of good, I will give just very short extracts from a number of letters which I have received from persons who ought to know:
FRANKFORT, IND., October 18, 1875.
LUTHER BENSON, ESQ.—My Dear Sir—Yours of the 14th is before me for answer, and, although very busily engaged in court, I can not refrain from answering at some length. First, I will say, "I have kept the faith." Though "the fight" is not yet over, my emancipation from the terrible thralldom is measurably complete. Occasional twinges of appetite yet admonish me to maintain my vigilance. It was while struggling with one of these that your letter came like a messenger from heaven to encourage and strengthen me. Not a day passes but that I think of you, and to your wise counsel and affectionate admonition, under Providence, I owe my beginning and continuance in this well-doing. * * * May the Lord spare you to "open the lips of truth" to those who, like myself, will perish without a revelation of their danger. With high esteem and sincere affection, I am, ever your friend, ——
SALEM, MASS., October 29, 1875.
BRO. BENSON—I write you these few lines to cheer your heart, and assure you that your labor in Salem has not been in vain in the Lord's cause (the Temperance Reform). Our friend and brother, ——, from Beverly, was over at our meeting on Wednesday evening last, and it would do your heart good to see the change in him. He will never forget Luther Benson, for it was your first speech in Salem that saved him. ——
I desire now to come down to the very near present, as some claim that my late afflictions and sore misfortunes have extinguished my capacity for good:
MEMPHIS, MO., Feb. 14, 1878.
DEAR BENSON—I know of my personal knowledge that you did a grand work here. Bro. B., you remember my pointing out to you a Dr. ——, and telling you what a persecutor of churches he was, and how hard he drank. He in two nights after you were here signed the pledge, and in telling his experience, said that you saved him—that no other person had ever been able to impress him as you did.
——, Jan. 1, 1878.
MY VERY DEAR FRIEND—I wish I could be with you and knee with you as in the past, and hear your faith in God. Here is my hand forever. You have done more for me than all the shepherds on the bleak hillsides of this black world.
TERRE HAUTE, IND., Feb. 22, 1878.
DEAR BENSON—You have done more for me than all the men and women on earth. One year ago I heard you lecture on Temperance in Lafayette. Then I was a poor outcast drunkard; you saved me. I am now a sober man and a Christian. ——
I could furnish thousands of such testimonials as the above, but deem these sufficient to convince any honest person that my toil is not in vain.
From one of the journals of my native State I clip the concluding extract:
"Luther Benson, the gifted inebriate orator, is still struggling against the demon of strong drink. He spoke at Jeffersonville recently, and in the middle of his discourse became so chagrined and disheartened at his repeated failures at reform, that he took his seat and burst into a flood of tears. He has since connected himself with the church, and has professed religion. May his new resolves and associations strengthen him in the line of duty. But, like the man among the tombs, the demons of appetite have taken full possession of his soul, and riot in every vein and fiber of his being. It is a fearful thraldom to be encompassed with the wild hallucinations begotten through a life of dissipation and debauchery. The strongest resolves at reform are broken as ropes of sand. All the moral faculties are made tributary to the one ruling passion—drink, drink, drink! But still his repeated resolves and heroic efforts betoken a greatness of soul rarely witnessed. May he yet live to see the devils that so sorely beset him running furiously down a steep place into the sea, and sink forever from his annoyance. But when they do come out of the man, instead of entering a herd of heedless swine for their coursers to the deep, may they ride, booted and spurred, every saloon-keeper who has contributed to make Luther Benson what he is, to the very verge of despair, and to the brink of hell's yawning abyss."
I might give many more well written and flattering criticisms, but from the foregoing the reader can determine in what estimation to hold my labor. For myself I am not solicitous for anything beyond escape from my thraldom, and that peace which is the sure accompaniment of a temperate Christian life. If I thought that my readers were of the opinion held by some of my enemies that my lectures have not been productive of good, I could quote from numberless private letters received from all parts of the land, in which I am assured of the good results which have crowned my humble efforts—in which I am told of very many instances where my words of entreaty and self-humiliation have been the means of bringing back from the darkness and death of intemperance, fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers who were on the road to destruction. I have letters from the wives, mothers, and sisters of these men, invoking the blessings of heaven upon me for the peace and happiness thus restored to them. I have letters from little children thanking me also for giving them back their fathers, and I thank God from the depths of my torn and desolate heart that I have been the humble instrument of good in these cases. In my darkest hours, when I feel that all is lost, when hope seems to soar away from me to the far-off heavens from which she first descended to this world, these letters, which I often read, and over which I have so often wept grateful tears, give me strength and courage to face the struggle before me. My most earnest prayer to God has been that I may do some good to compensate in some measure for the talent which he gave me, and which I have so sadly wasted. I have avoided mentioning the names of the many dear friends who have not forsaken me in this last extremity. As I write, name after name, dear to memory, crowds into my mind. I can hardly refrain from giving them a place on these pages, but to mention a few would be manifestly unjust to the remainder, and it is out of my power to print all of them in the space which could be afforded in this small book. But I wish to assure every man and woman who has ever given me a kind word of encouragement, or even a kind look, that they are not and never will be forgotten. Whatever my future fate may be, you did your duty, and God will bless you. Your names are all sacred to me.
At home again—Overwork—Shattered nerves—Downward to hell—Conceive the idea of traveling with some one—Leave Indianapolis on a third tour east in company with Gen. Macauley—Separate from him at Buffalo—I go on to New York alone—Trading clothes for whisky—Delirious wanderings—Jersey City—In the calaboose—Deathly sick—An insane neighbor—Another—In court—"John Dalton"—"Here! your honor"—Discharged—Boston—Drunk—At the residence of Junius Brutus Booth—Lecturing again—Home—Converted—Go to Boston—Attend the Moody and Sankey meetings—Get drunk—Home once more—Committed to the asylum—Reflections—The shadow which whispered—"Go away!"
I returned home from this second tour in the Eastern States in April, 1876, with shattered nerves and weary brain, but instead of resting, I went on lecturing until my overworked mind and body could no longer hold out, and then it was, after nearly two years of sobriety, that I once more fell. For weeks before this disaster overtook me, I was actually an irresponsible maniac. My pulse was never lower than one hundred to the minute, and much of the time it ran up to one hundred and twenty. I was so weak that with all my energy aroused I could only move about with feeble steps, and a constant anxiety and longing for something to drink preyed upon me. I was not content to remain in one place, but wanted to be going somewhere all the time, I cared not where. In this condition I dragged along my existence for weeks, until at last, driven to a frenzy, reason fled, and I plunged headlong into the horrors of another debauch. My downward course appeared to be accelerated by the very struggles which I had made to rise during the past two years. The moment I recovered from one horrible spell another more fierce seized me and plunged me into the very depths of hell. I now conceived the idea of getting some one to travel with me, thinking that by this means I could perhaps throw off the morbid gloom and melancholy which hung over me. But again I did the very thing I should not have done—I lectured.
On the 30th of September, 1876, I started from Indianapolis, in company with Gen. Dan. Macauley, on a third lecturing tour East. I was drunk when we started, and remained in that accursed state during the journey. At Buffalo, New York, we got separated, thence I went to New York city alone, where I continued drinking until I had no money. I then commenced to pawn my clothes—first, my vest; second, a pair of new boots, worth fourteen dollars; I got a quart of whisky, an old and worn-out pair of shoes, and ten cents in money, for my boots. I drank up the whisky, and traded off my overcoat. It was worth sixty dollars. I realized about five cents on the dollar, and all the horrors of all hells ever heard of, for I was attacked with the delirium tremens. By some means, of which I am entirely ignorant, I got across the river, into Jersey City, and was there arrested and lodged in the calaboose, in which I remained from Saturday until the following Monday. I suffered more in the forty-eight hours embraced in that time than I ever before or since suffered in the same length of time. I do not know the hour, but it was getting dark on that Saturday evening, when I got deathly sick, and commenced vomiting. I continued vomiting until Monday. Nothing that I swallowed would remain on my stomach. About eight o'clock Saturday evening the authorities, the police officers, put a large number of men and boys, who were arrested for being drunk, in the room in which I was confined. By midnight there were fourteen of us in a small, poorly-ventilated, dirty room. Planks extended around the room on three sides, and on these those who could get a place lay down. Among the number of "drunks" imprisoned with me were some of the worst and largest roughs of Jersey City, and these inhuman wretches, in the absence of the police, threatened; to take my life if I vomited again. In the room adjoining ours a madman was confined, and I don't think he ceased kicking and screaming a moment from Saturday night until Monday. In the room just across the narrow hall, fronting ours, was an insane woman, who swore she had two souls, one of which was in hell! She, too, kept up an incessant, piteous wailing, begging some one, ever and anon, with piercing screams, to bring back her lost soul! Indianapolis is more civilized than Jersey City in respect to her prisons, but not with respect to her police. And I am pretty sure that, as managed by its present superintendent, the unfortunate insane are in no other State cared for as they are in the Indiana asylum, and in no other State is the appropriation for running such a noble institution so beggarly as in ours. I have visited other asylums, and am now an inmate of this, and I know whereof I speak.
The reader may have a faint idea of my sufferings while in the Jersey City calaboose when I tell him that the least noise pierced my brain like a knife. I can in fancy and in my dreams hear the wild screams of that woman yet. On Monday morning we were marched together to a room, and I saw that there were about fifty persons all told under arrest. Among the number were many women, and I write with sorrow that their language was more profane and indecent than that of the men. I stood as in a nightmare and heard the judge say from time to time—"Five dollars"—"Ten dollars"—"Ten days"—"Fifteen days"—and so on. I was so weak that I found it almost out of my power to stand up, and as the various sentences were pronounced my heart gave a quick throb of agony. I felt that a sentence of ten days would kill me. At this moment "John Dalton" was called. I answered "Here, your Honor!" for Dalton was the name I had assumed. My offense was read—and the officer who arrested me volunteered the statement that I was not disorderly, and that I had not been creating any disturbance. I felt called upon to plead my own case before the judge, and without waiting for his permission I began to speak. It was life or death with me, and for ten minutes I spoke as I never spoke before and have never spoken since. I pierced through his judicial armor and touched his pity, else the fear of being talked to death influenced him, to discharge me with the generous advice to leave the city. Either way I was free, and was not long in getting across the river into New York, where I succeeded in finding General Macauley who saw that my toilet was once more arranged in a respectable manner. That night we started for Boston, and arrived there on Tuesday morning. I got drunk immediately and remained drunk until Saturday, on which memorable day I went in company with the General to Junius Brutus Booth's residence, at Manchester, Mass., where I staid, well provided for, until I got sober. I then began to fill my engagements, and for six weeks lectured almost every day and night. I again broke down and came home. I finally got sober once more and did not drink anything until in January last, when I again fell. I went to Jeffersonville to lecture, and while there became converted. Had I then ceased to work and given my worn-out body and mind a much needed rest, I would have to-day been standing up before the world a free and happy man. But my desire to see and tell every one of the new joy which I had found controlled me, and for six weeks I spoke every day, and often twice a day. I started east again and went to Boston. I attended the Moody and Sankey meetings, but was troubled with I know not what. All the time an unnatural feeling seemed to have possession of me.
One afternoon, just after getting off my knees from prayer, a strange spell came over me and before I could realize what I was doing, the devil hurried me into a saloon, where I began to drink recklessly, and knew nothing more for two or three days. Then I awoke, I knew not where. Some of my friends found me and sent me home. I now suffered more mental torture than I experienced on sobering up from any other spree I was ever on. I believed firmly that I was saved; that my appetite for liquor was forever gone. I felt now that there was no hope for me. Oh, the despairing days and long black nights of agony unspeakable that followed this debauch! In time I recovered physical health, and began to lecture, though under greater difficulties than ever before. I was so harrassed by my own shame and the world's doubts that within a month I again got drunk. While on this spree my friends made out the necessary papers, and I was committed to the Indiana Hospital for the Insane. Here, then, I am to-day, very near the end of my most wretched and misspent life. How can I tell the emotions which swell in my heart? It is on the record of this asylum that I was brought here June 4th, a victim of intemperance. Everything is being done for me that can be done, but I feel that my case is hopeless unless help comes from above. Ordinarily restraint and proper attention to diet and rest would in time cure aggravated cases of that peculiar insanity which manifests itself in an abnormal and excessive demand for liquor. But with me the spell returns after months of sobriety with a force which I am powerless to resist, as the reader has seen in the several instances given in this autobiography. The rule of treatment for patients here varies with the different characters of the patients. The impressions which I had formed of insane asylums was very different from those which have come from my sojourn among the insane. There is less screaming and violence than I thought there would be, and for most of the time the wards in which the better class of patients are confined are as still and apparently as peaceful as a home circle. The horror experienced during the first week's, or first two weeks' confinement wears off, and one gradually forgets that he is in a house for the mad. Many amusing cases come under my observation, but there are others which excite various feelings of pity, disgust, fear, and horror. There is, for instance, a man in "my ward" who imagines that he has murdered all his relations. Another believes that he swallowed and carries within him a living mule which compels him to walk on his hands as well as his feet. One poor fellow can not be convinced but assassins are hourly trying to stab or shoot him. One is afraid to eat for fear of being poisoned, and another wants to disembowel himself. Twice a day the wards, which number from thirty to forty patients under the charge of two attendants, one or the other of whom is constantly on duty, are taken out for a walk in the beautiful grounds around the asylum. Sometimes, when it is thought that the patient will be benefited, and when he is really well but still not in a condition to be discharged, he is allowed the freedom of the grounds. After I had been here two weeks I was permitted to go out on the grounds alone. But my feelings are about the same outside the building as inside. Even as I write I feel that there is a devil within me which is demanding me to go away from this place. I want whisky, and would at this moment barter my soul for a pint of the hellish poison. I have now been here a little over a month. Like all the other patients, I am kindly treated. Our beds are clean, and our food is well prepared, such as it is, and it is really much better than could be expected on the appropriation made by the last Legislature. I doubt if there is another institution of the kind in the United States that can be compared with this in the ability, justice, kindness, and noble and unswerving honesty of its management. Dr. Everts, the superintendent, is a gentleman whom I have not the honor to know personally, but whose commanding intelligence, and equally great heart, are venerated by all who do know him.
This is the fourth day of July, and I have written to my friends to come and take me away—for what purpose I dare not think. I am utterly desolate and miserable, and dare not look forward to the future, for I dread to face the uncertain and unknown TO-COME. To stay here is worse than madness, in my present condition, and to go away may be death. O, that some power higher than earth would reach forth a hand and save me from myself! I can not remain here without abusing the kindness and trust of a great institution, nor can I go away, I fear, without bringing disgrace on my friends, and shame and death on myself. God of mercy, help me! I know how useless it would be to lock me up in solitary confinement, and I think my attendant physician also feels that I can not be saved by any means within the reach of the asylum. With others not insane, but cursed with that insanity for drink which, if not checked, will soon or late lead to the destruction of reason and life itself, there is a chance to restore them from the curse to a life of honor and usefulness, and no means should be left untried which may ultimately save them, especially the young who, but for this curse infernal, might rise to a useful and even august manhood.
The shadows of the evening are settling upon the face of the earth. Now and then the report of a cannon in the direction of the city recalls what day it is, and I am reminded that crowds are thronging the streets for the purpose of witnessing the display of holiday fireworks; but vain to me such mimicry. A tall and mysterious shadow, more dark and awful than any which will steal among the graves of the old churchyard to-night, has risen and now stands beside whispering in the stillness—"Go away!"
A sleepless night—Try to write on the following day but fail—My friends consult with the officers of the institution—I am discharged—Go to Indianapolis and get drunk—My wanderings and horrible sufferings— Alcohol—The tyrant whom all should slay—What is lost by the drunkard—Is anything gained by the use of liquor?—Never touch it in any form—It leads to ruin and death—Better blow your brains out—My condition at present—The end.
After writing the words "go away," which close the preceding chapter, I lay down and tried to compose my thoughts, but the effort was futile. I passed a sleepless night, and when morning came I had fully resolved to leave the hospital if in my power to do so. During the forenoon I took up my pencil a number of times for the purpose of writing, but I was so disturbed in mind that I could not write a line intelligibly, and I will here say that from that day, July fifth, to this, September fifteenth, the manuscript remained untouched in the hands of a very dear friend, to whom I am under many obligations for his clear advice and judgment on matters of this sort as well as on others. I will now write this, the fifteenth and last chapter of this book; and in order to make the story of my life complete up to this date, I will go back and resume the thread of the narrative where it was left off on the evening of the fourth of July. It will be remembered that in my last chapter I spoke of having written letters to some of my friends desiring them to come and ask for my discharge. I awaited impatiently their coming, but when they came, which was on the sixth of July, I think, they were undecided whether it would be better for me to "go away," or remain longer at the asylum, but I plead to go, as if my life depended upon it. After consultation with the authorities at the hospital, who were clearly of the opinion that they had no right to detain me under the circumstances, and who, therefore, felt it incumbent upon them to discharge me, particularly if my friends were willing, it was by all parties decided that I should go. I felt glad in my heart that the institution was relieved of all responsibility in my case, for I did not wish to bring reproach upon anyone, and I feared if I remained longer I might take some rash step (abusing the generous kindness of my officers) that would do so. They had done their whole duty by me, and it remained for me now to do my duty to myself and friends. But as soon as I got to Indianapolis the pent-up fires of appetite blazed forth, and while on the way to the Union Depot to take the train to Rushville, I gave my friends the slip, and, sneaking like a thief through the alleys, I sought and found an obscure saloon in which I secreted myself and began to drink. I was once more on the road which leads to perdition. The old enemy, who had crawled up the walls of the asylum and slimed himself through my grated windows, and coiled around my heart in frightful dreams, again had me in his possession. Thus began one of the most maniacal and terrible drunks of my life. I became possessed of the wildest and most unreal thoughts that ever entered a crazed brain. I abused and misrepresented my best friends, and cursed everything but the thrice cursed liquor which was burning up my body and soul. I told absurd and terrible stories about the places where I had been, and about the friends who had done most for me. I was insane—as utterly so for the time as the worst case in the asylum. I knew not what I did or said, and yet my actions and words were cunningly contrived to deceive.
For the greater part of the fifteen days which followed I was as unconscious of what I did or said as if I had been dead and buried in the bottom of the sea. What I know of the time I have learned since from the lips of others. The hideous, fiendish serpent of drunkenness possessed my whole being. I felt him in every nerve, bone, sinew, fiber, and drop of blood in my body. There were moments when a glimmer of reason came to me, and with it a pang that shriveled my soul. During the period that I was drinking I was in Rushville, after leaving Indianapolis, Falmouth and Cambridge City. Of course, for the most part of the time, I knew not where I was. As I think of it now, I know that I was in hell. My thirst for whisky was positively maddening. I tried every means to quit, when conscious of my existence: I voluntarily entered the calaboose more than once, and was locked up, but the instant I got out, the madness caused me to fly where liquor was. I drank it in enormous quantities, and smothered without quenching the scorching, blazing fires of hell which were making cinders and ashes of every hope and energy of my being. I made my bed among serpents; I fed on flames and poison; I walked with demons and ghouls; all unutterable and slimy monsters crawled around and over me; every breath that I drew reeked with the odor of death; every beat of my fast-throbbing heart sent the hissing, boiling blood through my veins, which returned and froze about it. I have neither words nor images sufficiently horrible to typify my condition. I became, for the time an abhorred object; the sex of my sainted mother made a wide sweep to pass me by, and dear, little, innocent children fled from me as from a monster. My soul was no longer my own. The fiend Appetite had given it over, bound and helpless, to the fiend Alcohol. I turned by bleared vision towards the vaulted skies, and cursed them because they did not rain fire and brimstone down upon me and destroy me. And yet, oh! how I dreaded to die! The grave opened before me, and a million horrors were in its hollow and black chasm. The scalding tears I shed gave me no relief; the cries I uttered were unheard; and every ear was deaf to my pleadings. At times I thought of the asylum, and I would have given worlds could I have retraced my steps, and slept once more securely within its merciful and protecting walls. O, God! I screamed, why did I leave it? As day after day dragged its endless length along, and no relief came, my despair was a delirium of wretchedness. The sun appeared to be extinguished, and the universe was a void of black, impenetrable darkness, out of which, before and after me, rose the hideous specters, Death and Annihilation. The unimaginable horrors of the tremens were upon me.
Once more hear my voice, you who read! Lose no opportunity to strike a blow at intemperance. It may smile in the rosy face of youth, but do not be deceived; there are agonies unspeakable hidden beneath that smile. Look not on the wine cup when it is red, no matter if the jeweled hand of a princess hold it between you and the light. It is the beginning whose end is degradation, remorse, misery and death! Turn from a glass of beer as from a goblet of reeking and poisoned blood. It is a danger to be shunned. Beware that you do not learn this too late.
Alcohol, ruin, and death go hand in hand. The region over which Alcohol is king is one of decay. It is full of graves. The ghosts of the million joys, he has slain wail amid its ghastly desolations; there are sounds of sobbing orphans there; echoes of widows' shrieks; and the lamentations of fond mothers and wives, heart-broken, vex the realm; youth and age lie here dishonored together; in vain the sweetheart begs her lover to return from its fatal mists; in vain the pure sister calls with trembling tongue for her erring brother. He will not come back. He is the slave of a tyrant who has no compassion and knows no mercy. Oppose this tyrant, all ye who love the home circle better than the bawdy house; fight him all ye who set honor above dishonor; curse him all ye who prefer peace to discord, and law to anarchy; war against him in all ways unceasingly all ye to whom the thought of liberty and safety is dear, to whom happiness and truth are more desirable than misery and falsehood.
What, let me ask, is to be gained by drinking? What blessing comes from forming or indulging the habit? Pause here and think well before you answer. You could not afford to drink if the wealth of a nation were yours, because no man can afford to lose health and happiness if he hopes enjoyment in life. If you are strong, alcohol will destroy your nerves and sap your vigor. If you are weak, it will enfeeble you the more. If you are unhappy, it will only add to your unhappiness. Look at the subject as you will, you can not afford to drink intoxicating liquors. The moment you begin to form the habit of drinking that moment you begin to endanger your reputation, health and happiness, and that of your family and friends also. And let me say right now that you begin to form the habit when you touch your lips to any sort of intoxicating drink the first time. I have drank the sparkle and foam, and the gall and wormwood of all liquors. Do you envy me the horrors through which I have passed? You know how to avoid them. Never touch liquor. If you are bent on going to hell and destruction, choose a nearer and more honorable way by blowing your brains out at once.
A few words more, dear readers, and I will bid you good by. Many of you have no doubt heard of my restored peace and lasting favor with God at Fowler, Indiana. With regard to it and my condition at the present time, I will incorporate in substance the letter which I recently published in reply to inquiries addressed to me from all parts of the country, shortly after that event. I will give the letter with but little change, even at the risk of repeating what is elsewhere recorded. It is as follows:
On the evening of January twenty-first, 1877, at Jeffersonville, Indiana, God pardoned my sins and made me a new creature. For weeks happiness and joy were mine. The appetite—rather my passion—for liquor, which made the present a misery and the future a darkness, was no longer present. Its heavy burdens had fallen from me. Of this there could be no doubt; but I had been educated to believe that "once in grace always in grace," and this led to a fatal deception, a belief that I could not fall; that after God had once pardoned my sins I was as surely saved as if already in Paradise. That they were pardoned I had not a doubt, for the manifestations were as clear as light. Falsely thinking that I was pardoned for all time, my soul grew self-reliant: I became at the same time careless of my religious duties. I neglected to pray, to beware of temptation, and, naturally enough, soon found myself drifting into the society of those who neither loved nor feared God. Had I trusted alone in God and permitted the Savior to lead and keep me, I should not have fallen. Instead, I went back to the world, gave no thanks to God for his mercy and love, and thus dishonoring him, his face was hidden from me.
I went to Boston to speak in Moody and Sankey's meeting. I never once hoped by so doing to be the means of others' salvation; my sole thought was self and selfish ambition. Instead of talking at the Moody meeting, I took a drink of liquor, soon got drunk, and so remained for days. When I came out of the oblivion of that debauch, the agony experienced was terrible. All the shames, all the burning regrets, all the stinging compunctions of conscience I had known on coming out of such debauches before my conversion were almost as joy compared with the misery which preyed upon my heart then. I can not describe the hopeless feeling of remorse which came over me. I lived and moved in a night of misery and no star was in its sky. In the course of a few days I recovered physically so far as to be able to lecture. I prayed in secret, long and often, for a return of that peace which comes from God alone, but in vain. I was justly self-punished. At the end of four or five weeks I fell again, and this time my degradation was deeper than before. I would at times console myself with the thought that my suffering had reached the limit of endurance, and at such times new and still keener agonies would rise in my heart, like harpies, to tear me to atoms.
It was at this time that I was committed to the Hospital for the Insane at Indianapolis. The reader is aware of what took place on my arrival at Indianapolis, after leaving the hospital. I felt somehow that it was my last spree. I kept it up until nature could endure no more. I felt that my stomach was burned up, and that my brain was scalded. I was crucified from my head to the soles of my feet. I began to feel sure that this time I would die, and, when dead, go to the hell which seemed to be open to receive me. July twenty-first I left Indianapolis, and went to Fowler, Indiana, at which place, for five days and nights, I suffered every mental and physical pang that can afflict mortal man. Day and night I prayed God to be merciful, but no relief came. The dark hopelessness in which I lay I can not describe. I felt that I was undeserving of God's pardon or mercy. I had wronged myself, and my friends more than myself; I had trampled upon the love of Christ; I had loved myself amiss and lost myself. The Christian people of Fowler prayed for me; they called a prayer-meeting especially for me, to ask God to have mercy on and save me. On Wednesday night I went to the regular prayer-meeting, and, with a breaking heart, begged, on bended knee, that God would take compassion on me. The next day, July twenty-sixth, was the most wretched day I ever passed on earth. It seemed that whichsoever way I turned, hell's fiercest fires lapped up around my feet. There seemed no escape for me. Like that scorpion girt with flames, flee in any direction I would, I found the misery and suffering increasing. I resolved to commit suicide, but when just in the act of taking my life the Spirit of God restrained me. I met the Rev. Frank Taylor, the pastor at Fowler. I told him my hopeless condition. He cheered me in every way possible. In the evening we took a walk, and it was during this walk, while in the act of reaching my hand down to my pocket to get a chew of tobacco, that I felt a power hold back my hand, and, plainer than any spoken words, this same power told me not to touch it. I obeyed, withdrew my hand, and at that instant the glory of God filled my heart, suffering fled from me, and in its stead came sweet peace.