Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/607

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

things to eat and drinkable things to drink." Indeed, the ale-taster was once a public benefactor and more important than the mayor, and such was his benign influence that old Harrison, writing in the sixteenth century, declared that the glory of England was her inns. The roads might be rough and full of highwaymen, but at any inn the traveler could take his ease and be sure he would not be poisoned. For four hundred years it has been possible to enter an inn in the smallest and most insignificant rural hamlet in England and get a thimbleful of liquor without peril to one's stomach or to one's self-respect. How is it in those of the United States which prohibit the sale of liquor? As to one's stomach, I merely copy an item from a local newspaper printed in one of those States (suppressing the localities only):

"Some recent cases of poisoning hereabouts have brought out the statement that poor whisky is abundant in this city. It is sold principally in the kitchen dives and in places on the outskirts. Some of the whisky, it is said, has been so poor that wholesale dealers have disclaimed all knowledge of having sold it. Some of the unlicensed dealers have been selling 'whisky,' but where obtained it has been one of the mysteries that are impossible to explain. With the poisoning of the three men on Sunday night and the investigations which have followed, some light has been shed upon the subject." "It was stated in these columns on Monday that there had been a man about selling a receipt for making whisky. Investigation proves that this is so, but it is impossible to find a liquor dealer who will say he purchased it for five dollars—the price asked. This receipt as near as can be ascertained is as follows: One drachm of oil of vitriol or sulphuric acid, six drachms of spirits of turpentine, three drachms of spirits of juniper, six drachms of oil of almonds, and a quart of elderberry wine; a seductive decoction indeed. These fluids diluted with twenty-four gallons of water will make about twenty-five gallons of whisky, and cost in the neighborhood of one dollar and twenty-five cents, while the same quantity of distilled whisky would cost from forty to seventy-five dollars. Just how much of a business this man has conducted in ——— is not known, but that he has been favored with a fairly good trade is not doubted by the regular wholesale liquor dealers. He has been all through the villages in the ——— and has also been to ———."

So much for the visitor's stomach; now for his self-respect! As a native of the State most strenuous in its policy of prohibiting the sales of liquor, I have been now and again a curious collector of the divers and sundry ruses resorted to in evasion of the statutes by its best citizens, and I am able to note the latest as experienced during the present summer. At a certain watering place hotel within its paternal jurisdiction, guests who desired wine at dinner, or stimulants at other times, were invited to purchase a keg of an interesting compound known as root beer. A price for this alleged keg was charged to them on their hotel bill, and they were at liberty to visit the wine room, or to order from the waiters any liquors desired, until this price was exhausted.