Rum has always been a curse to the State of Maine. The steady fight that Maine has made, for a century past, against decent rum, has been worthy of a better cause.
Who hath woe? who hath sorrow and some more things of that kind? He that monkeyeth with Maine rum; he that goeth to seek emigrant rum.
In passing through Maine the tourist is struck with the ever-varying styles of mystery connected with the consumption of rum.
In Denver your friend says: “Will you come with me and shed a tear?” or “Come and eat a clove with me.”
In Salt Lake City a man once said to me: “William, which would you rather do, take a dose of Gentile damnation down here on the corner, or go over across the street and pizen yourself with some real old Mormon Valley tan, made last week from ground feed and prussic acid?” I told him that I had just been to dinner, and the doctor had forbidden my drinking any more, and that I had promised several people on their death beds never to touch liquor, and besides, I had just taken a large drink, so he would have to excuse me.
But in Maine none of these common styles of invitation prevail. It is all shrouded in mystery. You give the sign of distress to any member in good standing, pound three times on the outer gate, give two hard kicks and one soft one on the inner door, give the password, “Rutherford B. Hayes,” turn to the left, through a dark passage, turn the thumbscrew of a mysterious gas fixture 90 deg. to the right, holding the goblet of the encampment under the gas fixture, then reverse the thumbscrew, shut your eyes, insult your digester, leave twenty-five cents near the gas fixture, and hunt up the nearest cemetery, so that you will not have to be carried very far.
If a man really wants to drink himself into a drunkard’s grave, he can certainly save time by going to Maine. Those desiring the most prompt and vigorous style of jim-jams at cut rates will do well to examine Maine goods before going elsewhere. Let a man spend a week in Boston, where the Maine liquor law, I understand, is not in force, and then, with no warning whatever, be taken into the heart of Maine; let him land there a stranger and a partial orphan, with no knowledge of the underground methods of securing a drink, and to him the world seems very gloomy, very sad, and extremely arid.
At the Bangor depot a woman came up to me and addressed me. She was rather past middle age, a perfect lady in her manners, but a little full.
I said: “Madam, I guess you will have to excuse me. You have the advantage. I can’t just speak your name at this moment. It has been now thirty years since I left Maine, a child two years old. So people have changed. You’ve no idea how people have grown out of my knowledge. I don’t see but you look just as young as you did when I went away, but I’m a poor hand to remember names, so I can’t just call you to mind.”
She was perfectly ladylike in her manner, but a little bit drunk. It is singular how drunken people will come hundreds of miles to converse with me. I have often been alluded to as the “drunkard’s friend.” Men have been known to get intoxicated and come a long distance to talk with me on some subject, and then they would lean up against me and converse by the hour. A drunken man never seems to get tired of talking with me. As long as I am willing to hold such a man up and listen to him, he will stand and tell me about himself with the utmost confidence, and, no matter who goes by, he does not seem to be ashamed to have people see him talking with me.
I once had a friend who was very much liked by every one, so he drifted into politics. For seven years he tried to live on free whiskey and popular approval, but it wrecked him at last. Finally he formed the habit of meeting me every day and explaining it to me, and giving me free exhibitions of a breath that he had acquired at great expense. After he got so feeble that he could not walk any more, this breath of his used to pull him out of bed and drag him all over town. It don’t seem hardly possible, but it is so. I can show you the town yet.
He used to take me by the buttonhole when he conversed with me. This is a diagram of the buttonhole.
If I had a son I would warn him against trying to subsist solely on popular approval and free whiskey. It may do for a man engaged solely in sedentary pursuits, but it is not sufficient in cases of great muscular exhaustion. Free whiskey and popular approval on an empty stomach are highly injurious.