Wretchedness and degradation—Clothes, credit, and reputation all lost—The prodigal’s return to his father’s house—Familiar scenes—The beauty of nature—My lack of feeling—A wild horse—I ride him to Raleigh and get drunk—A mixture of vile poison—My ride and fall—The broken stirrups—My father’s search—I get home once more—Depart the same day on the wild horse—A week at Lewisville—Sick—Yearnings for sympathy.
My condition now grew worse from day to day. I descended step by step to the lowest depths of wretchedness and degradation. Often my only sleeping-place was the pavement, or a stairway, or a hall leading to some office. I lost my clothes, pawning most of them to the rum-sellers, until I was unfit to be seen, so few and dirty and ragged were the garments which I could still call my own. In ten years I have lost, given away, and pawned over fifty suits of clothes. Within the three years just past I have had six overcoats that went the way of my reputation and peace of mind.
I left Rushville at the time of which I am writing, but not until it was out of my power to either buy or beg a drop of liquor—not until my reputation was destroyed and everything else that a true man would prize—and then, like the prodigal who had wallowed with swine, I returned to my father’s house—the home of my childhood, around which lay the scenes which were imprinted on my mind with ineffaceable colors. But I had destroyed the sense which should have made them comforting to me. I have no doubt that nature is beautiful—that there are fine souls to whom she is a glorious book, on whose divine pages they learn wisdom and find the highest and most exalting charms. But I, alas, am dead to her subtle and sacred influences. However, I might have been benefited by my stay at home, had it been difficult for me to find that which my appetite still craved; but it was not so. Falmouth and Raleigh and Lewisville were still within easy reach, and not only at these, but at many other places could liquor be procured, and I got it. The curse was on me. My condition became such that it was unsafe to send me from home on any business. I can recall times when I left horses hitched to the plow or wagon and went on a spree, forgetting all about them, for weeks. I had left home firm in the resolve to not touch a drop of liquor under any circumstances, and so thoroughly did I believe that I would not, that I would have staked my soul on a wager that I would keep sober. But the sight of a saloon, or of some person with whom I had been on a drunk, or even an empty beer keg, would rouse my appetite to such an extent that I gave up all thoughts of sobriety and wanted to get drunk. I always allowed myself to be deceived with the idea that I would only get on a moderate drunk this time, and then quit forever. But the first drink was sure to be followed by a hundred or a thousand more.