Stories Worth Rereading: The Bridal Wine-Cup

“Pledge with wine! Pledge with wine!” cried young and thoughtless Harvey Wood. “Pledge with wine!” ran through the bridal party.

The beautiful bride grew pale; the decisive hour had come. She pressed her white hands together, and the leaves of the bridal wreath trembled on her brow. Her breath came quicker, and her heart beat wilder.

“Yes, Marian, lay aside your scruples for this once,” said the judge in a low tone, going toward his daughter; “the company expects it. Do not so seriously infringe upon the rules of etiquette. In your own home do as you please; but in mine, for this once, please me.”

Pouring a brimming cup, they held it, with tempting smiles, toward Marian. She was very pale, though composed; and her hand shook not, as, smiling back, she gracefully accepted the crystal tempter, and raised it to her lips. But scarcely had she done so when every hand was arrested by her piercing exclamation of “O, how terrible!”

“What is it?” cried one and all, thronging together, for she had slowly carried the glass at arm’s length and was fixedly regarding it.

“Wait,” she answered, while a light, which seemed inspired, shone from her dark eyes—”wait, and I will tell you. I see,” she added slowly, pointing one finger at the sparkling ruby liquid, “a sight that beggars all description; and yet, listen! I will paint it for you, if I can. It is a lovely spot. Tall mountains, crowned with verdure, rise in awful sublimity around; a river runs through, and bright flowers grow to the water’s edge. But there a group of Indians gather. They flit to and fro, with something like sorrow upon their dark brows. In their midst lies a manly form, but his cheek, how deathly! His eyes are wild with the fitful fire of fever. One friend stands before him—nay, I should say, kneels; for see, he is pillowing that poor head upon his breast.

“O, the high, holy-looking brow! Why should death mark it, and he so young? Look, how he throws back the damp curls! See him clasp his hands! Hear his thrilling shrieks for life! Mark how he clutches at the form of his companion, imploring to be saved! O, hear him call piteously his father’s name! See him twine his fingers together as he shrieks for his sister—his only sister, the twin of his soul, weeping for him in his distant native land!

“See!” she exclaimed, while the bridal party shrank back, the untasted wine trembling in their faltering grasp, and the judge fell overpowered upon his seat—”see! his arms are lifted to heaven—he prays—how wildly!—for mercy. Hot fever rushes through his veins. He moves not; his eyes are set in their sockets; dim are their piercing glances. In vain his friend whispers the name of father and sister—death is there. Death—and no soft hand, no gentle voice to soothe him. His head sinks back; one convulsive shudder—he is dead!”

A groan ran through the assembly. So vivid was description, so unearthly her look, so inspired her manner, that what she described seemed actually to have taken place then and there. They noticed, also, that the bridegroom hid his face in his hands, and was weeping.

“Dead!” she repeated again, her lips quivering faster and faster, and her voice more broken. “And there they scoop him a grave; and there, without a shroud, they lay him down in that damp, reeking earth, the only son of a proud father, the only idolized brother of a fond sister. There he lies, my father’s son, my own twin brother, a victim to this deadly poison. Father,” she exclaimed, turning suddenly, while the tears rained down her beautiful cheeks, “father, shall I drink it now?”

The form of the old judge was convulsed with agony. He raised not his head, but in a smothered voice he faltered:—

“No, no, my child; no!”

She lifted the glittering goblet, and let it suddenly fall to the floor, where it was dashed in a thousand pieces. Many a tearful eye watched her movement, and instantaneously every wine-glass was transferred to the marble table on which it had been prepared. Then, as she looked at the fragments of crystal, she turned to the company, saying: “Let no friend hereafter who loves me tempt me to peril my soul for wine. Not firmer are the everlasting hills than my resolve, God helping me, never to touch or taste the poison cup. And he to whom I have given my hand, who watched over my brother’s dying form in that last solemn hour, and buried the dear wanderer there by the river in that land of gold, will, I trust, sustain me in that resolve.”

His glistening eyes, his sad, sweet smile, were her answer. The judge left the room. When, an hour after, he returned, and with a more subdued manner took part in the entertainment of the bridal guests, no one could fail to read that he had determined to banish the enemy forever from his princely home.

—”Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer.”