I read this little story from a book titled "Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer," written about 1897. This story touched me.
“The Bridal wine-cup.”
“Toast with wine! A toast with wine!” cried the young and thoughtless Harry.
“A toast with wine!” ran through the bridal party.
The beautiful bride grew pale. She pressed her hands together, and the leaves of her bridal wreath trembled on her brow; her breath came quicker, and her heart beat more wildly.
“Yes, Marian, lay aside your scruples for this once,” said the Judge, in a low tone; “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.”
Every eye was turned toward the bridal pair. Marian’s principles were well known. Harry had been always been merry company, but of late his friends had noticed the change in his manner, and a difference in his habits.
Pouring a brimming cup, they held it with tempting smiles toward her. She was very pale, though now more composed. Smiling, she 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, “Oh, how terrible!”
“What is it?” cried one and all, thronging together; for she had slowly carried the glass at arms length, and was regarding it as if it were some hideous object.
“Wait,” she said, “wait and I will tell you. I see,” she added, pointing her jeweled fingers at the sparkling liquid, “a sight that is difficult to describe; and yet, listen, I will paint it for you if I can. I see a lovely spot; tall mountains, crowned with flourishing greenery, rising in awful sublimity all around; a river runs through, and bright flowers grow to the water’s edge. There is a thick, warm mist that the sun seeks vainly to pierce.
“Trees, lofty and beautiful, wave to the motion of the breeze, and in their midst lies a manly form – but his cheeks, how deathly they look! His eyes, how wildly they glare around him, with the fitful fires of fever! One friend stands beside him; I should say kneels, for see, he is pillowing that poor head upon his breast.
“Genius in ruins, on that high and holy looking brow. Why should death mark it, and he is so young? Look, how he throws back the damp curls. See him clasp his hands. How he clutches at the form of his companion, imploring to be saved.
Oh, hear him call piteously his father’s name. See him twine his fingers together, as he shrieks for his sister, the twin of his soul, weeping for him in a distant native land. See! His arms are lifted to heaven. How wildly he prays for mercy. But fever rushes through his veins. The friend beside him is weeping. Awe-stricken, the dark men move silently away, and leave the living and the dying together.”
There was a hush in that princely parlor, broken only by what seemed a sob from some manly bosom. The bride stood yet upright, with quivering lips, and tears streaming down her pallid cheeks. Her arm had lost its tension, and the glass with its contents came slowly toward the range of her vision. She spoke again. Every lip was mute; her voice was low, faint, yet distinct. Still she fixed her sorrowful glance upon the wine-cup.
“It is evening now; the great white moon is coming up, and her beams fall gently on his forehead. He moves not; his eyes are rolling in their sockets, and there are the piercing glances. In vain his friend whispers the names of father and sister. No soft hand and no gentle touch blesses or soothes him. His head shrinks back. One convulsive shudder, and he is dead.”
A groan ran through the assembly. So vivid was her description, so unearthly her look, so inspiring her manner, that what she described seemed actually to have taken place then and there. They noticed also that the bridegroom hid his face, and was weeping.
“Dead!” she repeated again, her lips quivering faster, as if her heart were broken; “and then they scooped him a grave, and then, without a shroud, they lay him down in the damp reeky earth; the only son of a proud father, the idolized brother of a fond sister; and he sleeps today in that distant country, with no stone to mark the spot.
“There he lies, my father’s son, my own twin brother --- a victim of this deadly poison!
Father!” she exclaimed, turning suddenly, while the tears rolled down her cheeks, “father, shall I drink the poison now?”
The form of the Judge was convulsed with agony. He raised not his head, but in a smothered voice he faltered: “No, my child, no!
She lifted the glittering goblet, and letting it fall suddenly to the floor, it was dashed to pieces. Many a tearful eye watched her movements, and instantaneously every glass was transferred to the marble table. Then, as she looked at the fragments of crystal, she turned to the company, saying: “Let no friend of mine who loves me, hereafter tempt me to peril my soul with wine or any other poisonous venom. Not firmer are the everlasting hills (God helping me) than my resolve never to touch or taste the terrible poison. And he to whom I have given my hand, who watched over my brother’s dying form in that land of gold, will sustain me in my resolve. Will you not my husband?”
His glistening eye, his sad, sweet smile was the answer. The Judge had left the room; but when he returned, and, with a more subdued manner, took part in the entertainment of the bridal guests, none could fail to see that he too had determined to banish the enemy, and at once, from that princely home.
Reader, this is no fiction. I was there, and heard the words which I have penned, as nearly as I can recollect them. The bride, her husband, and her brother, who died in the gold regions of California, were school-mated of mine. Those who were present at the wedding of my associates never forgot the impression do solemnly made, and all from that hour forsook the social glass.