THE DRINKING HOUSE OVER THE WAY
The room was so cold and cheerless and bare,
With its rickety table and one broken chair,
With its curtainless window with hardly a pane
To keep out the snow, the wind and the rain.
A cradle stood empty, pushed up to the wall,
And somehow that seemed the saddest of all.
In the rusty old stove the fire was dead,
There was snow on the floor at the foot of the bed
And there, all alone, a pale woman was lying,
You need not look twice to see she was dying.
Dying of want, of hunger and cold.
Shall I tell you her story – the story she told:
“No Ma’am, I’m no better; my cough is so bad;
It’s wearing me out, tho’, and that makes me glad,
For it’s wearisome living when one’s all alone,
And Heaven they tell me, is just like a home.
Yes, Ma’am, I’ve a husband, he’s somewhere about,
I hoped he’d come in ‘fore the fire went out;
But I guess he has gone where he’s likely to stay,
I mean to the Drinking House over the way.
It was not always so, and I hope you won’t think
Too hard of him, lady, it’s only the drink.
I know he’s kindhearted for oh! how he cried
For our poor little baby the morning he died.
You see he took sudden, and grew very bad,
And we had no doctor – my poor little lad –
For his father had gone, never meaning to stay
I am sure, to the Drinking Hose over the way.
And when he came back, ‘twas far in the night,
And I was so tired and sick with fright,
Of staying so long with my baby alone,
And it cutting my heart with its pitiful moan.
He was cross with the drink; poor fellow, I know
It was that, not his baby, that bothered him so;
But he swore at the child, as panting it lay,
And went back to the Drinking House over the way.
Could I be a girl, I, the heart-broken wife
There watching alone while the dear little life
Was going so fast that I had to bend low
To hear if it breathed, ‘twas so faint and so slow.
Yes, it was easy, his dying, he just grew more white
And his eyes opened wider to look for the light,
As his father came in ‘twas just break of day –
Came in from the Drinking House over the way.
Yes, Ma’am, he was sober, at least mostly I think,
He often stayed that way to wear off the drink.
And I know he was sorry for what he had done,
For he set a great store by our first little one,
And straight did he come to the cradle-bed, where
Our baby lay dead, so pretty and fair.
I wondered that I could have wished him to stay
When there was a Drinking House over the way.
He stood quiet a while, did not understand,
You see, till he touched the cold little hand.
Oh! then came the tears, and he shook like a leaf,
And he said ‘twas the drinking that made all the grief.
The neighbors were kind and the minister came,
And he talked of my seeing my baby again,
And of the bright angels – I wondered if they
Could see in the Drinking House over the way.
And I thought when my baby was put in the ground,
And the men with their spades were shaping the mound,
If somebody only would help me to save
My husband who stood by the side of the grave.
If only it were not so handy to drink –
The men that make laws, Ma’am, sure didn’t think,
Of hearts they would break, of the souls they would slay,
When they licensed the Drinking House over the way.
I’ve been sick since, and it cannot be long,
Be pitiful, lady, to him when I’m gone.
He wants to do right, but you never can think
How weak a man grows when he’s fond of drink.
And it’s tempting him here and it’s tempting him there –
Four places I’ve counted in this very square,
Where a man can get whiskey by night and by day,
Not to mention the Drinking House over the way.
There’s a verse in the Bible the minister read,
No drunkard shall enter the kingdom, it said.
And he is my husband and I love him so,
And where I am going I want him to go.
Our baby and I will both want him there –
Don’t you think the dear Savior will answer our prayer?
And please, when I’m gone, ask someone to pray
For him at the Drinking House over the way.