“But how are they to be ’left out’?” asked the lecturer.
“By temp’rance folks doin’ somethin’ beside talkin’,” replied the drunkard. “For twenty year I’ve been lectured and scolded, an’ some good men’s come to me with tears in their eyes, and put their arms ‘roun’ my neck, an’ begged me to stop drinkin’. An’ I’ve wanted to, an’ tried to, but when all the encouragement a man gits is in words, an’ no matter how he commenced drinkin’, now ev’ry bone an’ muscle in him is a beggin’ fur drink ez soon as he leaves off, an’ his mind’s dull, an’ he ain’t fit fur much, an’ needs takin’ care of as p’tic’ler ez a mighty sick man, talk’s jist as good ez wasted. Ther’s been times when ef I’d been ahead on flour an’ meat an’ sich, I could a’ stopped drinkin’, but when a man’s hungry, an’ ragged, an’ weak, and half-crazy, knowin’ how his family’s fixed an he can’t do nothin’ fur ’em, an’ then don’t get nothin’ but words to reform on, he’ll go back to the tavern ev’ry time, an’ he’ll drink till he’s comfortable an’ till he forgits. I want the people here, one an’ all, to understand that though I’m past helpin’ now, ther’s been fifty times in the last twenty year when I might hed been stopped short, ef any body’d been sensible enough and good-hearted enough to give me a lift.”
Joe Digg sat down, and there was a long pause. The Chairman whispered to the leader of the Glee Club, and the club sang a song, but somehow it failed to awaken the usual enthusiasm. After the singing had ended, the Chairman himself took the floor and moved the appointment of a permanent committee to look after the intemperate, and to collect funds when the use of money seemed necessary, and the village doctor created a sensation by moving that Mr. Joe Digg should be a member of the committee. Deacon Towser, who was the richest man in the village, and who dreaded subscription papers, started an insidious opposition by eloquently vaunting the value of earnest prayer and of determined will, in such cases, but the new member of the committee (though manifestly out of order) outmanoeuvred the Deacon by accepting both amendments, and remarking that in a hard fight folks would take all the help they could get.
Somehow, as soon as the new committee—determining to open a place of entertainment in opposition to the tavern, and furnish it pleasantly, and make it an attractive gathering-place for young men—asked for contributions to enable them to do it, the temperance excitement at Backley abated marvelously. But Squire Breet, and the doctor, and several other enterprising men, took the entire burden on their own shoulders—or pockets—and Joe Digg was as useful as a reformed thief to a police department. For the doctor, whose professional education had left him a large portion of his natural common-sense in working order, took a practical interest in the old drunkard’s case, and others of the committee looked to the necessities of his family, and it came to pass that Joe was one of the earliest of the reformers. Men still go to the tavern at Backley, but as, even when the twelve spake with inspired tongues, some people remained impenitent, the temperance men at Backley feel that they have great cause for encouragement, and that they have, at least, accomplished more within a few months than did all the temperance meetings ever held in their village.