The clock struck twelve, then one, and the morning hours advanced, light-foot messengers of the coming day. The gay and the jocund laugh was hushed, and the notes that told of festive mirth were silenced. Nature, either fatigued by exertion or stupefied by wine, had sank to repose; and those who had lingered too long and indulged too freely were lying on the cabin-floor helpless. George retired at a seasonable hour. James remained, and fell, as others, before the enchanting wine-cup’s power!
The next morning George called at the store of Laneville & Co. No one was in save a small lad, who, to his inquiry, replied that all were sick. The youth was a short, porpoise-shaped lad, who appeared quite independent for his age and station, and told George that he had better call the next day, as the folks would n’t be down. In an instant George suspected the cause of their absence. Though he knew James would be mortified to be seen, yet he determined upon visiting him, thinking it a favorable opportunity to submit to him the expediency of taking that step which he had urged upon him on the morning previous.
Conscious of being engaged in an act of duty, he ascended the steps that led to the door of the house. He rang; a servant-girl answered his call.
“Holloa!” shouted a voice at the head of the stairs. “Who’s there?-what cow’s got into my pasture now? Another glass, friends,—once more! Now drink, ’Death to the temperance cause, and ill-luck to fanatics!’ Holloa! down below,—come aloft!”
“Hush! be quiet,” said a female voice, in a whisper. “James, do respect yourself.”
“Hush! who says hush? My soul’s in arms; come on, John Duff! bring liquor here, and cursed be he who says, I’ve had enough!”
The closing of a door put an end to this extemporaneous address. George stood like a statue; he knew not which course to take,—whether to go up to his friend’s room, or go down to the street. He soon determined, and sent word that he wished to speak to James. In a moment the latter was again to be heard declaiming disconnected sentences on all manner of subjects, until, learning the wish of George, he shouted,
“Yes, tell him to come up and revel in the groves of Madeira, or dance with peasant-girls at the grape-gatherings in Sicily! Yes, George, up here, and see how a man can live a temperance life without signing the pledge, and be as independent as he pleases!”
As George entered, James grasped his hand,—swung him round rather familiarly, and pushed him towards a chair.
The furniture and all that was in the room was in the greatest confusion, not excepting James Clifton himself. There was a boot-jack and a vase of flowers side by side on the mantel; a pair of boots on the centre-table, with two or three annuals on them, as though to keep them from being blown away; a nice hat stood on the hearth filled with coal-ashes, while an inkstand upside down on a pile of linen bosoms had left an impression not easily effaced; the paintings that were in the room were turned face towards the wall,—some freak of James’, as though ashamed to have them see the performances.