Speak Kindly

Timothy Shay Arthur, 1852

Though he often drank alcohol, and was at times idle, Mr. Marker had not wholly given himself up to the evil of drinking. He worked pretty regularly at his trade, and gave the greater part of his earnings to his wife. But he spent at least a dollar and a half a week in liquor, and sometimes more. This sum, added to what might have been earned in the time lost in consequence of bad drinking habits, shows a good deal of money wasted, which, if spent in his family, would have given them many comforts.

In consequence of this, poor Mrs. Marker had to work harder and harder every day; and yet their comforts diminished instead of increasing. Not possessing naturally much evenness of temper, nor a great deal of fortitude she was, at times, very impatient and fretful; and she became, in the end, so much worried by her husband's conduct, that she hardly ever gave him a pleasant word when he was in the house, and was often the cause of his going out and spending evenings in the taverns when he felt inclined to remain at home.

Mary, their oldest child, was, at the time of which we are writing, just eleven years of age. She loved her father very much, notwithstanding his evil ways; and it often caused her to go off by herself alone, and cry, when angry words passed between him and her mother.

One evening, Mr. Marker brought a book home for Mary, which was received by her with great joy. But she had scarcely taken it in her hand, before her mother said fretfully

"What's that?"

"It's a book that papa has bought me," replied Mary, holding up her present.

"He must have plenty of money to throw away!" said the mother ill-naturedly, for she never could let any opportunity that presented itself pass, without saying something that was unkind to her husband.

A man who has been drinking is never entirely rational; and as Mr. Marker had poured two or three glasses of fiery liquid down his throat, he was not, of course, in a fit state for reason and self-control. As usual on such occasions, he had something to say in return, and one remark followed another, until there was a war of words. As soon as this had subsided, the unhappy family had supper, but none of them could eat with any relish. After they had left the table, Mr. Marker, in sitting down for the purpose of reading, happened to say something that his wife thought silly and men, after they have been drinking, generally talk silly enough when she said to him

"Do hush, will you! I hate to hear anyone talk like a fool!"

Mary was never happier than when her father remained at home during the evening; and if her mother had taken half the pains to induce him to do so, than she did he would have been with them four or five evenings every week, instead of in the saloon, as was generally the case.

Poor child! How sad she felt when she saw her father throw down his paper and go angrily from the house.

"If mother would only be kind to him," she said to herself, " I am sure he would do better."

The little present he had brought her, showed the affection that was in his heart for Mary, as debased as it was, and the child's feelings were affected with more than a usual tenderness by the small gift. The stroke of a lash upon her back, could not have hurt her half so much as did the angry words uttered by her mother; and when she saw their effect was in driving her father from the house she could not refrain from weeping. The book, which she had hoped to enjoy for an evening, was laid away out of sight, and she shrank into a corner of the room with a heavy weight of grief on her young heart. All her thoughts were with her father. She knew where he had gone, and was, alas! too well assured that when he came home, he would be so much intoxicated as scarcely to be conscious of anything.

Mrs. Marker was often sorry for her unguarded and ill-chosen words, after she saw the effect of them. It was so on this occasion. Poor woman! how heavily did she sigh as she sat down with her sewing, after having put the supper things away. The effect of her words had been too obvious not to leave a feeling of self-condemnation; and this feeling is, perhaps, of all others, most painful to bear.

Mr. Marker had been gone only a few minutes, when Mary arose and left the room. Upon a chair in the passage lay an old shawl, which she threw over her head, and then glided noiselessly from the house.

The night was cold, and Mary shivered when the heavy air first struck upon her thinly-clad form. But she soon forgot the wintry atmosphere through which she was passing. A few blocks away, was one of those man-traps, called barrooms, into which, if anyone goes, he is in great danger of being ruined both in body and soul. To this place, Mary knew that her father went often and there she directed her rapid steps. A brilliant gas-lamp burned just in front of the barroom, and there was a beautiful transparency in the window. Outside, all looked attractive; and within, everything was so attractive, to tempt the unwary. Before the door Mary stood for a few moments and then entered, stealthily, like one who felt that her presence would be unwelcome.

Mr. Marker, on leaving home, felt very much fretted in his mind. Something had occurred during the day to cause him to reflect; and the consequence was, that he had indulged his appetite for alcohol less frequently than usual. When he returned to his family in the evening, although he had been drinking, he was nearer to being a sober man than he had been for weeks. This, unfortunately, his wife did not perceive, and her harsh language came, therefore, upon certain good resolutions, like wind upon the chaff and scattered them in the air.

On going from the house in anger, Mr. Marker went, as his little daughter had supposed, to the barroom. On entering, he called for a glass of beer, and taking it to a table, sat down with a newspaper in his hand. After taking a drink of the liquor, he commenced reading. But he found little, if anything, to interest him. His mind was disturbed; and there was a picture in his imagination, that, if possible, he would have shut out a picture of home; but he could not. The pleasure that lit up Mary's face, when he gave her the book he had bought, he saw instantly fade before the unkindly spoken word of her mother, and with a certain bitterness of feeling, he clenched his hands uneasily and set his teeth tightly together.

But, even while he blamed his wife for her fretful temper, thoughts of his own evil doings and their consequences upon his family, came forcing themselves into his mind, and his feelings smarted under the self-accusations of his own conscience. He had, after running his eye hurriedly over the newspaper, reading a line here and there, but not perceiving any meaning in what he read, thrown it down, and was just lifting his glass to take another drink of beer, when he saw Mary enter the door and look timidly around. The glass, before it reached his lips, was returned to the table so much surprised was he at the appearance of his child in such a place.

It was a moment or two before Mary saw her father; but as soon as her eyes rested upon him, she went quickly over to where he sat, and taking hold of his hand, said, in a low but very tender voice "Come home, papa!"

His heart turned toward his child with her loving gentle tones, and, as if led by an angel from amidst a company of evil spirits he arose and followed her out into the pure cold air.

Still holding tightly the hand of her father, Mary moved on toward their home, and he walked by her side as passively as if no will of his own remained.

When they reached their cheerless dwelling, both entered, side by side. Mrs. Marker, who, until that moment, was not aware that Mary had left the house, looked up from her needle-work with surprise. She was about to say something, when Mary sprang toward her and whispered in her ear, in an earnest, imploring voice, yet so distinctly, that her father heard her words "Oh, mamma speak kindly!"

Mrs. Marker's form drooped over her work, as if nearly all strength had left her. Her face bent low to her needle, but still, for the gathering tears, she could not see. Her husband sat down at a short distance from her, feeling very strange. For a few minutes, all was silent. Suddenly Mrs. Marker let her sewing fall from her hands, and rising up, went over to where her husband sat with his eyes upon the floor.

"Edward," she said, in a low, serious voice, "I will never speak unkindly again."

"And I'll never drink another drop of alcohol!" he replied in an animated voice, springing to his feet.

In a moment they were in each other's arms, and, in tears, gave pledges for a new and a better life.

Oh! it was a joyful time for Mary. She scarcely slept that night, for thinking of the happy days that were to come. And she has not been disappointed. Mr. Marker signed the pledge never to drink alcohol again, on the very next day, and faithfully has he kept it since. Few happier homes than this, are now to be found; and no one in that house is happier than Mary.

Oh! there is a wonderful power in kind words!