Notwithstanding the short interval between the reception of the cards and the hour of festivity, the time appointed saw a goodly number assembled in the well-furnished, richly-decorated cabins of the ship.
It was evident that some individuals had been busy as bees, for all was clean and in the best of order. Wreaths of evergreen and national flags decorated the vessel, and bouquets of bright and fragrant flowers, conspicuously arranged, loaded the air with their sweet perfumes. There were card-tables and cards, scores of well-filled decanters, and glasses almost without number. At one end of the cabin stood a table filled with fruits of the most costly kind. There were oranges fresh from the land that gave them growth, and other products of sunny Italy and the islands beyond the seas. The captain was as lively as a lark, and as talkative as wit and wine could make him. He spoke of his quick voyage, praised his ship till praise seemed too poor to do its duty, boasted of its good qualities, said there was not a better craft afloat, and finished his eulogy by wishing success to all on board, and washing it down with a glass of Madeira, which, he said, was the stuff, for he made it himself from grapes on the island.
Messrs. Laneville & Co. were in high glee. They drank and played cards with men worth millions; spoke of the inclemency of the season, and expressed great surprise that so much poverty and wretchedness existed, with one breath, and with the next extolled the wines and administered justice to the eatables. Editors were there who had that morning written long “leaders” about the oppression of the poor by the rich, and longer ones about the inconsistencies of their contemporaries, who ate and drank, and dreamt not of inconsistency in themselves, though they guided the press with temperance reins, and harnessed themselves with those who tarried long at the wine.
James drank quite often, and George as often admonished him of his danger. But the admonitions of a young man had but little if any influence, counteracted as they were by the example of the rich and the great about him. There was Alderman Zemp, who was a temperance man in the world, but a wine-drinker in a ship’s cabin. He had voted for stringent laws against the sale of liquors, and had had his name emblazoned on the pages of every professedly temperance paper as a philanthropist and a righteous man; and on the pages of every anti-temperance publication, as a foe to freedom, and an enemy to the rights of humanity. But he drank; yes, he had asked James to take a glass of the water of Italy, as he called it. Clergymen, so called, disgraced themselves, and gave the scoffers food for merriment. Judges who that day might have sentenced some unfortunate to imprisonment for drinking, drank with a gusto equalled only by lawyers who would talk an hour in court to prove a man discreditable evidence because he was known to visit bar-rooms! It was the influence of these, and such like, that made James drink, and caused the labor of George to prove all unavailing. It is the example of the rich that impedes the progress of temperance,—they who loll on damask sofas, sip their iced champagnes and brandies, and never get “drunk,” though they are sometimes “indisposed.”