“You asked for plain talk; are you listening to what I’m saying?”
“Oh, hell, yes,” burst out Quest; “I’m going to pull myself together. Didn’t I tell you I would? But I’ve got to get a starter first, haven’t I? I’ve got to have something to key me up first. I’ve explained to you that it’s this crawling, squirming movement on the backs of my hands that I can’t stand for. I want it stopped; I’ll take anything you dope out; I’ll do any turn you call for——”
“Very well. I’ve told you to go to Mulqueen’s. Go now!”
“All right, doctor. Only they’re too damn rough with a man. All right; I’ll go. I did go last winter, and look where I am now!” he snarled suddenly. “Have I got to get up against all that business again?”
“You came out in perfectly good shape. It was up to you,” said the doctor, coldly using the vernacular.
“How was it up to me? You all say that! How was it? I understood that if I cut it out and went up there and let that iron-fisted Irishman slam me around, that I’d come out all right. And the first little baby-drink I hit began the whole thing again!”
“Why did you take it? You didn’t have to.”
“I wanted it,” retorted Quest angrily.
“Not badly enough to make self-control impossible. That’s what you went up there for, to get back self-control. You got it but didn’t use it. Do you think there is any sort of magic serum Mulqueen or I or anybody under Heaven can pump into you that will render you immune from the consequences of making an alcohol sewer of yourself?”
“I certainly supposed I could come out and drink like a gentleman,” said the young man sullenly.
“Drink like a—what? A gentleman? What’s that? What’s drinking like a gentleman? I don’t know what it is. You either drink alcohol or you don’t; you either swill it or you don’t. Anybody can do either. I’m not aware that either is peculiar to a gentleman. But I know that both are peculiar to fools.”
Quest muttered, picking his fingers, and cast an ugly side look at the physician.
“I don’t know what you just said,” snapped Dr. Bailey, “but I’ll tell you this: alcohol is poison and it has not—and never had—in any guise whatever, the slightest compensating value for internal use. It isn’t a food; it’s a poison; it isn’t a beneficial stimulant; it’s a poison; it isn’t an aid to digestion; it’s a poison; it isn’t a life saver; it’s a life taker. It’s a parasite, forger, thief, pander, liar, brutalizer, murderer!
“Those are the plain facts. There isn’t, and there never has been, one word to say for it or any excuse, except morbid predisposition or self-inculcated inclination, to offer for swallowing it. Now go to your brewers, your wine merchants, your champagne touts, your fool undergraduates, your clubmen, your guzzling viveurs—and they’ll all tell you the contrary. So will some physicians. And you can take your choice. Any ass can. That is all, my boy.”