“Speaking about prohibition,” said Misery Brown one day, while we sat lying on the damp of the Blue Tail Fly, “I am prone to allow that the more you prohibit, the more you–all at once–discover that you have more or less failed to prohibit.
“Now, you can win a man over to your way of thinking, sometimes, but you mustn’t do it with the butt-end of a telegraph-pole. You might convert him that way, perhaps, but the mental shock and phrenological concussion of the argument might be disastrous to the convert himself.
“A man once said to me that rum was the devil’s drink, that Satan’s home was filled with the odor of hot rum, that perdition was soaked with spiced rum and rum punch. ‘You wot not,’ said he, ‘the ruin rum has rot. Why, Misery Brown,’ said he, ‘rum is my bete noir.’ I said I didn’t care what he used it for, he’d always find it very warming to the system. I told him he could use it for a hot bete noir, or a blanc mange, or any of those fancy drinks; I didn’t care.
“But the worst time I ever had grappling with the great enemy, I reckon, was in the later years of the war, when I pretty near squashed the rebellion. Grim-visaged war had worn me down pretty well. I played the big tuba in the regimental band, and I began to sigh for peace.
“We had been on the march all summer, it seemed to me. We’d travel through dust ankle-deep all day that was just like ashes, and halt in the red-hot sun five minutes to make coffee. We’d make our coffee in five minutes, and sometimes we’d make it in the middle of the road; but that’s neither here nor there.
“We finally found out that we would make a stand in a certain town, and that the Q.M. had two barrels of old and reliable whisky in store. We also found out that we couldn’t get any for medical purposes nor anything else All we could do was to suffer on and wait till the war closed. I didn’t feel like postponing the thing myself, so I began to investigate. The great foe of humanity was stored in a tobacco-house, and the Q.M. slept three nights between the barrels. The chances for a debauch looked peaked and slim in the extreme. However, there was a basement below, and I got in there one night with a half-inch auger, and two wash-tubs. Later on there was a sound of revelry by night. There was considerable ‘on with the dance, let joy be unconfined.’
“The next day there was a spongy appearance to the top of the head, which seemed to be confined to our regiment, as a result of the sudden giving way, as it were, of prohibitory restrictions. It was a very disagreeable day, I remember. All nature seemed clothed in gloom, and R.E. Morse, P.D.Q., seemed to be in charge of the proceedings. Redeyed Regret was everywhere.
“We then proceeded to yearn for the other barrel of woe, that we might pile up some more regret, and have enough misery to last us through the balance of the campaign. We acted on this suggestion, and, with a firm resolve and the same half-inch auger, we stole once more into the basement of the tobacco-house.
“I bored nineteen consecutive holes in the atmosphere, and then an intimate friend of mine bored twenty-seven distinct holes in the floor, only to bore through the bosom of the night. Eleven of us spent the most of the night boring into the floor, and at three o’clock A.M. it looked like a hammock, it was so full of holes. The quartermaster slept on through it all. He slept in a very audible tone of voice, and every now and then we could hear him slumbering on.
“At last we decided that he was sleeping middling close to that barrel, so we began to bore closer to the snore. It was my turn to bore, I remember, and I took the auger with a heavy heart. I bored through the floor, and for the first time bored into something besides oxygen. It was the quartermaster. A wild yell echoed through the southern confederacy, and I pulled out my auger. It had on the point a strawberry mark, and a fragment of one of those old-fashioned woven wire gray shirts, such as quartermasters used to wear.
“I remember that we then left the tobacco-house. In the hurry we forgot two wash-tubs, a half-inch auger, and 980,361 new half-inch auger holes that had never been used.”