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Letters From Troy
by [?]

How trivial are the immediate causes of great events! On New Year’s Day our excellent Vicar, having bought himself a Whitaker’s Almanack for 1895, presented his last year’s copy to the Working Men’s Reading Room. In itself you would have thought this action of the Vicar’s signified no more than a generous desire to keep his parishioners abreast of the times. In effect it inaugurated the Great Temperance Movement in Troy–a social revolution of which we are only now, after four long weeks, beginning to see the end.

You must not, of course, suppose that we had never heard of temperance before. No, Prince, we do not live so far from Abyssinia as all that. In a general way we understood it to be a good thing, and upon that ground (optimists that we are) believed its ultimate success to be but a question of time. But I think I may say we never regarded it as a pressing question–such as the reform of the House of Lords, for instance. The general impression (I call it no more) was that we should all be temperate sooner or later; possibly as the next step after espousing our Deceased Wife’s Sister.

Well, our Vicar laid his copy of the 1894 almanack on the reading-room table at 11.30 a.m., or thereabouts, looked over the local papers for a few minutes, and left the building at ten minutes to noon. I get this information from Matthias James, our respected pilot, who happened to be in the room, reading the Shipping Gazette. It is confirmed by Mr. Hansombody and four or five other members. At noon precisely, Mr. Rabling (our gasman and an earnest Methodist) came in. His eye, as it wandered round in search of an unoccupied newspaper, was arrested by the scarlet and green binding of Whitaker. He picked the book up, opened it casually, and read:

The proof gallons of spirits distilled during the year ending March 31st, 1893, were 10,691,576 in England, 20,107,077 in Scotland, and 13,615,668 in Ireland. . . .

He tells me he was on the point of closing the book as a voluptuous work of fiction, when a second and even more dazzling paragraph took his eye.

The beer charged with duty in the United Kingdom was 32,104,320 barrels, 532,047 barrels of which were exported on drawback, leaving 31,572,283 barrels for home consumption. There were also 38,580 barrels of beer, and 1,653 barrels of spruce imported from abroad.

And again:

The spirits “retained for home consumption” in the year were:– rum, 4,268,438 gallons; brandy, 2,668,499 gallons; “other sorts,” 824,078 gallons. The home consumption of tobacco in the year reached the total of 63,765,053 lbs. Though the tobacco duty was reduced by 4d. a lb. in 1887-8, the annual yield averages 1,336,240 pounds sterling more than it was ten years ago. Smuggling still continues. . . .

Mr. Rabling was declaiming aloud by this time, and when he read out about the smuggling, one or two of his audience gazed up at the ceiling and agreed that the fellow had some of his facts right. Old Pilot James added that the book could hardly be a work of fiction, since the Vicar had left it on the table, and the Vicar was not one to scatter lies except upon due deliberation.

Mr. Rabling left the room and walked straight up to the Vicarage, and the Vicar assured him that the Customs Returns were almost as accurate as if they had been prepared under a Conservative Government. You must excuse these details, Prince. They are really essential to the story.

At 12.55 Mr. Rabling (after a hasty dinner) handed across the counter of the post-office a telegram addressed to his religious superintendent at Plymouth. The message ran: