Stories Worth Rereading: “Please, Sir, I Would Rather Not”

An old sailor tells the following story of a boy who suffered much in resisting temptation:—

When offered a drink, the lad said, “Excuse me; I would rather not.”

They laughed at him, but they never could get him to drink liquor. The captain said to the boy:—

“You must learn to drink grog if you are to be a sailor.”

“Please excuse me, captain, but I would rather not.”

“Take that rope,” commanded the captain to a sailor, “and lay it on; that will teach him to obey orders.”

The sailor took the rope, and beat the boy most cruelly.

“Now, drink that grog,” said the captain.

“Please, sir, I would rather not.”

“Then go into the foretop and stay all night.”

The poor boy looked away up to the masthead, trembling at the thought of spending the night there, but he had to obey.

In the morning the captain, in walking the deck, looked up, and cried, “Halloo, up there!”

No answer.

“Come down!”

Still no answer.

One of the sailors was sent up, and what do you think he found? The poor boy was nearly frozen. He had lashed himself to the mast, so that when the ship rolled, he might not fall into the sea. The sailor brought the boy down in his arms, and they worked upon him until he showed signs of life. Then, when he was able to sit up, the captain poured out some liquor and said:—

“Now, drink that grog.”

“Please, sir, I would rather not. Let me tell you why, and do not be angry. In our home in the cottage we were so happy, but father took to drink. He had no money to get us bread, and at last we had to sell the little house we had lived in, and everything we had. It broke my poor mother’s heart. In sorrow she pined away, till, at last, before she died, she called me to her bedside, and said: ‘Jamie, you know what drink has made of your father. I want you to promise your dying mother that you will never taste drink. I want you to be free from that curse that has ruined your father,’ O, sir,” continued the little fellow, “would you have me break the promise I made to my dying mother? I cannot, and I will not do it.”

These words touched the heart of the captain. Tears came into his eyes. He stooped down, and, folding the boy in his arms, said: “No, no, my little hero. Keep your promise, and if any one tries again to make you drink, come to me, and I will protect you.”


* * * * *

“There were plans of mischief brewing;
I saw, but gave no sign,
For I wanted to test the mettle
Of this little knight of mine.
‘Of course, you must come and help us,
For we all depend on Joe,’
The boys said; and I waited
For his answer—yes or no.

“He stood and thought for a moment;
I read his heart like a book,
For the battle that he was fighting
Was told in his earnest look.
Then to his waiting playmates
Outspoke my loyal knight:
‘No, boys; I cannot go with you,
For I know it wouldn’t be right.'”