OR, THE SMOKER REFORMED
BY T. S. A-TH-R (Bret Harte)
"One cigar a day!" said Judge Boompointer.
"One cigar a day!" repeated John Jenkins, as with
trepidation he dropped his half-consumed cigar
under his work-bench.
"One cigar a day is three cents a day," remarked
Judge Boompointer gravely; "and do you know, sir,
what one cigar a day, or three cents a day, amounts
to in the course of four years?"
John Jenkins, in his boyhood, had attended the
village school, and possessed considerable
arithmetical ability. Taking up a shingle which
lay upon his work-bench, and producing a piece of
chalk, with a feeling of conscious pride he made
an exhaustive calculation.
"Exactly forty-three dollars and eighty cents," he
replied, wiping the perspiration from his heated
brow, while his face flushed with honest enthusiasm.
"Well, sir, if you saved three cents a day, instead
of wasting it, you would now be the possessor of a
new suit of clothes, an illustrated Family Bible, a
pew in the church, a complete set of Patent Office
Reports, a hymn-book, and a paid subscription to
Arthur's Home Magazine, which could be purchased
for exactly forty-three dollars and eighty cents--and,"
added the Judge, with increasing sternness, "if you
calculate leap-year, which you seem to have
strangely omitted--you have three cents more, sir; three
cents more! What would that buy you, sir?"
"A cigar," suggested John Jenkins; but, coloring
again deeply, he hid his face.
"No, sir," said the Judge, with a sweet smile of
benevolence stealing over his stern features;
"properly invested, it would buy you that which
passeth all price. Dropped into the missionary-box,
who can tell what heathen, now idly and joyously
wantoning in nakedness and sin, might be brought
to a sense of his miserable condition, and made,
through that three cents, to feel the torments
of the wicked?"
With these words the Judge retired, leaving John
Jenkins buried in profound thought. "Three cents
a day," he muttered. "In forty years I might be
worth four hundred and thirty-eight dollars and
ten cents--and then I might marry Mary. Ah,
Mary!" The young carpenter sighed, and drawing a
twenty-five cent daguerreotype from his vest pocket,
gazed long and fervidly upon the features of a
young girl in book muslin and a coral necklace.
Then, with a resolute expression, he carefully
locked the door of his work-shop, and departed.
Alas! his good resolutions were too late. We
trifle with the tide of fortune, which too often
nips us in the bud and casts the dark shadow of
misfortune over the bright lexicon of youth! That
night the half-consumed fragment of John Jenkins's
cigar set fire to his work-shop and burned it up,
together with all his tools and materials. There
was no insurance.
THE DOWNWARD PATH
"Then you still persist in marrying John Jenkins?"
queried Judge Boompointer, as he playfully, with
paternal familiarity, lifted the golden curls of
the village belle, Mary Jones.
"I do," replied the fair young girl, in a low
voice that resembled rock candy in its saccharine
firmness; "I do. He has promised to reform. Since
he lost all his property by fire--"
"The result of his pernicious habit, though he
illogically persists in charging it to me,"
interrupted the Judge.
"Since then," continued the young girl, "he has
endeavored to break himself of the habit. He
tells me that he has substituted the stalks of
the Indian rattan, the outer part of a leguminous
plant called the smoking-bean, and the fragmentary
and unconsumed remainder of cigars, which occur
at rare and uncertain intervals along the road,
which, as he informs me, though deficient in
quality and strength, are comparatively inexpensive."
And, blushing at her own eloquence, the young girl
hid her curls on the Judge's arm.
"Poor thing!" muttered Judge Boompointer. "Dare
I tell her all? Yet I must."
"I shall cling to him," continued the young girl,
rising with her theme, "as the young vine clings
to some hoary ruin. Nay, nay, chide me not, Judge
Boompointer. I will marry John Jenkins!"
The Judge was evidently affected. Seating himself
at the table, he wrote a few lines hurriedly upon
a piece of paper, which he folded and placed in the
fingers of the destined bride of John Jenkins.
"Mary Jones," said the Judge, with impressive
earnestness, "take this trifle as a wedding gift
from one who respects your fidelity and truthfulness.
At the altar let it be a reminder of me." And
covering his face hastily with a handkerchief, the
stern and iron-willed man left the room. As the
door closed, Mary unfolded the paper. It was an
order on the corner grocery for three yards of
flannel, a paper of needles, four pounds of soap,
one pound of starch, and two boxes of matches!
"Noble and thoughtful man!" was all Mary Jones
could exclaim, as she hid her face in her hands
and burst into a flood of tears.
* * * * * *
The bells of Cloverdale are ringing merrily. It
is a wedding. "How beautiful they look!" is the
exclamation that passes from lip to lip, as Mary
Jones, leaning timidly on the arm of John Jenkins,
enters the church. But the bride is agitated, and
the bridegroom betrays a feverish nervousness. As
they stand in the vestibule, John Jenkins fumbles
earnestly in his vest pocket. Can it be the ring
he is anxious about? No. He draws a small brown
substance from his pocket, and biting off a piece,
hastily replaces the fragment and gazes furtively
around. Sure no one saw him? Alas! the eyes of
two of that wedding party saw the fatal act. Judge
Boompointer shook his head sternly. Mary Jones
sighed and breathed a silent prayer. Her husband
CHAPTER III AND LAST
"What! more bread?" said John Jenkins gruffly.
"You're always asking for money for bread. D--nation!
Do you want to ruin me by your extravagance?" and
as he uttered these words he drew from his pocket a
bottle of whiskey, a pipe, and a paper of tobacco.
Emptying the first at a draught, he threw the empty
bottle at the head of his eldest boy, a youth of
twelve summers. The missile struck the child full
in the temple, and stretched him a lifeless corpse.
Mrs. Jenkins, whom the reader will hardly recognize
as the once gay and beautiful Mary Jones, raised
the dead body of her son in her arms, and carefully
placing the unfortunate youth beside the pump in
the back yard, returned with saddened step to the
house. At another time, and in brighter days, she
might have wept at the occurrence. She was past
"Father, your conduct is reprehensible!" said little
Harrison Jenkins, the youngest boy. "Where do you
expect to go when you die?"
"Ah!" said John Jenkins, fiercely; "this comes of
giving children a liberal education; this is the
result of Sabbath schools. Down, viper!"
A tumbler thrown from the same parental fist laid
out the youthful Harrison cold. The four other
children had, in the meantime, gathered round
the table with anxious expectancy. With a chuckle,
the now changed and brutal John Jenkins produced
four pipes, and, filling them with tobacco, handed
one to each of his offspring and bade them smoke.
"It's better than bread!" laughed the wretch
Mary Jenkins, though of a patient nature, felt it
her duty now to speak. "I have borne much, John
Jenkins," she said. "But I prefer that the children
should not smoke. It is an unclean habit, and soils
their clothes. I ask this as a special favor!"
John Jenkins hesitated--the pangs of remorse began
to seize him.
"Promise me this, John!" urged Mary upon her knees.
"I promise!" reluctantly answered John.
"And you will put the money in a savings bank?"
"I will," repeated her husband; "and I'll give up
"'Tis well, John Jenkins!" said Judge Boompointer,
appearing suddenly from behind the door, where he
had been concealed during this interview. "Nobly
said! my man. Cheer up! I will see that the children
are decently buried." The husband and wife fell
into each other's arms. And Judge Boompointer,
gazing upon the affecting spectacle, burst into
From that day John Jenkins was an altered man.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~