CHAPTER VIII With the Circus
During the following year a circus that was passing through the country stopped at a town near by; and John, together with a number of his associates, attended some of the exhibitions. John's interest was at once captivated, and he felt that it would be great to join the company and to act the part of the clown; and he soon began to plan to secretly join them the following season. His visions of great wealth enlarged day by day, and in fancy he pictured a future of wonderful fame.
In due time the show company returned. They gladly accepted John's proposal to join them; and so John, with his few earthly possessions, to the surprise of all who knew him, disappeared from his home locality. But John seemed doomed to disappointment; the showman's life was not at all as he had pictured it. Instead of becoming fabulously rich in a fairy-like way, he was taken very ill and had soon lost all the money he did have. As soon, therefore, as he was able, he returned to his friends at home, thoroughly disgusted with his undertakings; he was a wiser lad than he was when he went away.
But, although John was disgusted, he was not disheartened. When he was laughed at by his friends, he bravely bore their ridicule, and endeavored to look on the bright side of things. Also, he explained to them that show life, on the outside and to the sightseer, was not at all what it was among the members of the company; but that behind the curtains oaths were uttered, and abuse and nearly every kind of evils could be witnessed.
When he was back once more among his old associates, he endeavored to pass away the time in as pleasant a way as possible. Card playing, gambling, and dancing were his amusements, but tobacco and whiskey were his enjoyments; and as before, he was considered among his friends as a jolly good fellow. But John was not truly happy; beneath his superficial joyousness was a longing for something that he was unable to name or describe.
Let us stop a moment and look at John. A glance tells us that a great change has taken place. The ruddy complexion and childish features were replaced by a sallow hue upon the sunken cheek; and the roguish expression of the large brown eyes was lost in the haggard look that well accorded with the telltale cough and the stooping shoulders. The poisons of the tobacco and whiskey were doing their fatal work. His entire system was heavily charged with nicotine and alcohol; and the effect of these poisons constantly operating upon his nervous system and digestive organs had made him but a wreck of his former self. It is true that in stature he was as large as the man his father had desired him to be; but he was far from being of the strong manly type that that parent would have had him to become. Instead, he was weakly; and his body was never free from pain and suffering.
The old adage that ignorance is bliss can never be aptly applied to nicotine and alcohol. For only those who let them both entirely alone can be truly happy or safe. When we examine what doctors have written about the use of these poisons, we find that alcohol as well as nicotine is a stimulant and a narcotic. As a stimulant, it excites the brain and nerves, quickens the circulation of the blood, and intoxicates (makes drunk); while as a narcotic it blunts the powers of the brain and nerves and produces stupor and death.
Tests in the army, navy, and arctic explorations have definitely proved that alcohol is not a food.
Alcohol will not allay thirst: "Alcohol has a great attraction for water; and when swallowed, it draws the water to itself, thus depriving the tissues of the body of that merit necessary inorganic food. Again, alcohol causes a rush of blood to the skin, which causes a sensation of warmth to be felt upon the surface of the body. However, the sensation of heat is, like beauty, 'only skin deep,' as the heat of the system has really been diminished rather than increased; because when the blood is upon the surface, it parts with its heat more readily."
I "The effects of alcohol upon the heart may be summed up in the following statements:
"(a) It causes a softening of the muscles of the heart, and a fatty degeneration, thus clogging the workings of this vital organ.
"(b) It overworks the heart.
"(c) Oftentimes it renders the heart weak and flabby.
"(d) It causes an enlargement or dilation of its parts.
"(e) There is a consequent effect of drowsiness and lassitude.
"(f) Its general effect upon the heart is to destroy its strength and usefulness."
II "Alcohol has the following effects upon the lungs:
"(a) It makes the blood impure, thus increasing the work of the lungs.
"(b) It paralyzes the blood vessels.
"(c) It weakens the various lung tissues.
"(d) It impairs breathing."
III "Alcohol's effects upon the stomach:
"(a) Produces chronic inflammation of the stomach.
"(b) Injures the mucous lining by hardening the tissues.
"(c) It destroys some of the small glands and impairs others.
"(d) It precipitates the pepsin of the gastric juice, thus retarding digestion.
"(e) It thickens the mucus of the stomach.
"(f) The action of the stomach is at first quickened by the presence of alcohol, and then retarded."
IV "The effects of alcohol upon the liver may be:
"(a) It produces a hardened condition of its tissues.
"(b) Enlarges the organ.
"(c) Compresses and lessens the cells for producing bile.
"(d) Stimulates the liver to overaction, thus reducing the bile supply.
"(e) It weakens and destroys the usefulness of this organ of digestion."
V "Effect of alcohol upon the blood and blood-vessels:
"(a) It thins and coagulates the blood according to the amount of alcohol.
"(b) It hastens the circulation, thus weakening it.
"(c) It prevents combustion.
"(d) It impairs and destroys the corpuscles, thus affecting their powers of transporting oxygen and carbonic acid gas.
"(e) It weakens the arterial muscles by affecting the nerves governing them."
VI "Effects of alcohol upon the brain and nerves are:
"(a) It causes apoplexy and epilepsy by confusing the brain.
"(b) It weakens the will and deadens the feelings.
"(c) It hardens the brain tissues, producing dullness, insensibility, and insanity.
"(d) It destroys the nerve fiber of the brain.
"(e) It temporarily stimulates and finally depresses this organ.
"(f) It will at last destroy man, body and soul."
"Alcohol leads every other drug in its far-reaching influence for mischief and evil. Were the thousands of ruined homes, the untold numbers of blasted lives, the sorrows, the sins, numberless crimes, murders, and deaths brought in panoramic review before us, what a hell-born picture it would be!"
"The effect of alcohol upon the morals is awful. All delicacy, courtesy, and self-respect are gone; the sense of justice and right is faint or quite extinct. There is no vice into which the victim of drunkenness does not easily slide; and no crime from which he can be expected to refrain. Between this condition and insanity there is but a single step."
These are only a part of the many evils that come to the one who takes alcohol into his system. We have already heard something about the effects of nicotine, the poison that is in tobacco. The constant use of either poison will impair the health of the strongest person. It saps the mind of its reasoning qualities; and in nine cases out of ten, leaves the victim without sufficient strength to seek and obtain his own deliverance or to live a righteous life. But let us return now to John.