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FIFTEEN YEARS IN HELL.

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY.

BY LUTHER BENSON,

1885.


 

PREFACE

CHAPTER I.

Early shadows--An unmerciful enemy--The miseries of the curse--Sorrow and gloom--What alcohol robs man of--What it does--What it does not do-- Surrounding evils--Blighted homes--A Titan devil--The utterness of the destroyer--A truthful narrative--"It stingeth like an adder."

CHAPTER II.

Birth, parentage and early education--Early childhood--Early events--Memory of them vivid--Bitter desolation--An active but uneasy life--Breaking colts for amusement--Amount of sleep--Temperament has much to do in the matter of drink--The author to blame for his misspent life--Inheritances--The excellences of my father and mother--The road to ruin not wilfully trodden- -The people's indifference to a great danger--My associates--What became of them--The customs of twenty years ago--What might have been.

CHAPTER III.

The old log school house--My studies and discontent--My first drink of liquor--The companion of my first debauch--One drink always fatal--A horrible slavery--A horseback ride on Sunday--Raleigh--Return home--"Dead drunk"--My parents' shame and sorrow--My own remorse--An unhappy and silent breakfast--The anguish of my mother--Gradual recovery--Resolves and promises--No pleasure in drinking--The system's final craving for liquor-- The hopelessness of the drunkard's condition--The resistless power of appetite--Possible escape--The courage required--The three laws--Their violation and man's atonement.

CHAPTER IV.

School days at Fairview--My first public outbreak--A schoolmate--Drive to Falmouth--First drink at Falmouth--Disappointment--Drive to Smelser's Mills--Hostetter's Bitters--The author's opinion of patent medicines, bitters especially--Boasting--More liquor--Difficulty in lighting a cigar-- A hound that got in bad company--Oysters at Falmouth, and what befell us while waiting for them--Drunken slumber--A hound in a crib--Getting awake-- The owner of the hound--Sobriety--The Vienna jug--Another debauch--The exhibition--The end of the school term--Starting to college at Cincinnati-- My companions--The destruction wrought by alcohol--Dr. Johnson's declaration concerning the indulgence of this vice--A warning--A dangerous fallacy--Byron's inspiration--Lord Brougham--Sheridan--Sue--Swinburne--Dr. Carpenter's opinion--An erroneous idea--Temperance the best aid to thought.

CHAPTER V.

Quit college--Shattered nerves--Summer and autumn days--Improvement--Picnic parties--A fall--An untimely storm--Crawford's beer and ale--Beer brawls-- County fairs and their influence on my life--My yoke of white oxen--The "red ribbon"--"One McPhillipps"--How I got home and how I found myself in the morning--My mother's agony--A day of teaching under difficulties--Quiet again--Law studies at Connersville--"Out on a spree"--What a spree means.

CHAPTER VI.

Law practice at Rushville--Bright prospects--The blight--From bad to worse- -My mother's death--My solemn promise to her--"Broken, oh, God!"-- Reflection--My remorse--The memory of my mother--A young man's duty-- Blessed are the pure in heart--The grave--Young man, murder not your mother--Rum--A knife which is never red with blood, but which has severed souls and stabbed thousands to death--The desolation and death which are in alcohol.

CHAPTER VII.

Blank, black night--Afloat--From place to place--No rest--Struggles--Giving way--One gallon of whisky in twenty-four hours--Plowing corn--Husking corn- -My object--All in vain--Old before my time--A wild, oblivious journey-- Delirium tremens--The horrors of hell--The pains of the damned--Heavenly hosts--My release--New tortures--Insane wanderings--In the woods--At Mr. Hinchman's--Frozen feet--Drive to town in a buggy surrounded by devils-- Fears and sorrows--No rest.

CHAPTER VIII.

Wretchedness and degradation--Clothes, credit, and reputation all lost--The prodigal's return to his father's house--Familiar scenes--The beauty of nature--My lack of feeling--A wild horse--I ride him to Raleigh and get drunk--A mixture of vile poison--My ride and fall--The broken stirrups--My father's search--I get home once more--Depart the same day on the wild horse--A week at Lewisville--Sick--Yearnings for sympathy.

CHAPTER IX.

The ever-recurring spell--Writing in the sand--Hartford City--In the Ditch- -Extricated--Fairly started--A telegram--My brother's death--Sober--A long night--Ride home--Palpitation of the heart--Bluffton--The inevitable-- Delirium again--No friends, money, nor clothes--One hundred miles from home--I take a walk--Clinton county--Engage to teach a school--The lobbies of hell--Arrested--Flight to the country--Open school--A failure--Return home--The beginning of a terrible experience--Two months of uninterrupted drinking--Coatless, hatless, and, bootless--The "Blue Goose"--The tremens-- Inflammatory rheumatism--The torments of the damned--Walking on crutches-- Drive to Rushville--Another drunk--Pawn my clothes--At Indianapolis--A cold bath--The consequence--Teaching school--Satisfaction given--The kindness of Daniel Baker and his wife--A paying practice at law.

CHAPTER X.

The "Baxter Law"--Its injustice--Appetite is not controlled by legislation- -Indictments--What they amount to--"Not guilty"--The Indianapolis police-- The Rushville grand jury--Start home afoot--Fear--The coming head-light--A desire to end my miserable existence--"Now is the time"--A struggle in which life wins--Flight across the fields--Bathing in dew--Hiding from the officers--My condition--Prayer--My unimaginable sufferings--Advised to lecture--The time I began to lecture.

CHAPTER XI.

My first lecture--A cold and disagreeable evening--A fair audience--My success--Lecture at Fairview--The people turn out en masse--At Rushville-- Dread of appearing before the audience--Hesitation--I go on the stage and am greeted with applause--My fright--I throw off my father's old coat and stand forth--Begin to speak, and soon warm to my subject--I make a lecture tour--Four hundred and seventy lectures in Indiana--Attitude of the press-- The aid of the good--Opposition and falsehood--Unkind criticism--Tattle mongers--Ten months of sobriety--My fall--Attempt to commit suicide-- Inflict an ugly but not dangerous wound on myself--Ask the sheriff to lock me in the jail--Renewed effort--The campaign of '74--"Local option."

CHAPTER XII.

Struggle for life--A cry of warning--"Why don't you quit?"--Solitude, separation, banishment--No quarter asked--The rumseller--A risk no man should incur--The woman's temperance convention at Indianapolis--At Richmond--The bloated druggist--"Death and damnation"--At the Galt House-- The three distinct properties of alcohol--Ten days in Cincinnati--The delirium tremens--My horrible sufferings--The stick that turned to a serpent--A world of devils--Flying in dread--I go to Connersville, Indiana- -My condition grows worse--Hell, horrors, and torments--The horrid sights of a drunkard's madness.

CHAPTER XIII.

Recovery--Trip to Maine--Lecturing in that State--Dr. Reynolds, the "Dare to do right" reformer--Return to Indianapolis--Lecturing--Newspaper extracts--The criticisms of the press--Private letters of encouragement-- Friends dear to memory--Sacred names.

CHAPTER XIV.

At home again--Overwork--Shattered nerves--Downward to hell--Conceive the idea of traveling with some one--Leave Indianapolis on a third tour east in company with Gen. Macauley--Separate from him at Buffalo--I go on to New York alone--Trading clothes for whisky--Delirious wanderings--Jersey City-- In the calaboose--Deathly sick--An insane neighbor--Another--In court-- "John Dalton"--"Here! your honor"--Discharged--Boston--Drunk--At the residence of Junius Brutus Booth--Lecturing again--Home--Converted--Go to Boston--Attend the Moody and Sankey meetings--Get drunk--Home once more-- Committed to the asylum--Reflections--The shadow which whispered "Go away!"

CHAPTER XV.

A sleepless night--Try to write on the following day but fail--My friends consult with the officers of the institution--I am discharged--Go to Indianapolis and get drunk--My wanderings and horrible sufferings--Alcohol- -The tyrant whom all should slay--What is lost by the drunkard--Is anything gained by the use of liquor?--Never touch it in any form--It leads to ruin and death--Better blow your brains out--My condition at present--The end.