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Letters From Troy
by [?]

“Here anual consumption of beer over three milion barls. Greatly distresd, Rabling.”

The telegraph clerk kindly corrected all the errors of spelling in the above, save one, which escaped him. By “here” Mr. Rabling had intended “hear” (scilicet “I hear,” or “we hear”). The answer arrived from Plymouth within an hour.

“Am sending missionary next train.”

Thus our Temperance movement began. The missionary arrived before set of sun, borrowed a chair from Mr. Rabling, carried it down to the town quay and mounted it. A number of children at once gathered round, in the belief that the stranger intended a tumbling performance. The missionary eyed them and began, “Ah, if I can once get hold of you tender little ones–” an infelicitous opening, which scattered them yelling, convinced that the Bogey-man had come for them at last. Upon this he changed his tone and called “O Gomorrah!” aloud several times in a rich baritone voice, which fetched quite a little crowd of elders around him from the reading-room, the fish-market, the “King of Prussia” Inn, and other purlieus of the quay.

Then the missionary gave us a most eloquent and inspiriting address, in the course of which he mentioned that if all the beer annually consumed in England were placed in bottles, and the bottles piled on one another, it would reach within five hundred miles of the moon. He asked us if this were not an intolerable state of things and a disgrace to our boasted civilisation? Of course, there could be no two questions about it. We are not unreasonable, down in Troy. We only want a truth to be brought home to us. The missionary said that if only a man would deny himself his morning glass, in eight months he could buy himself a harmonium, besides being better in mind and body. And he wound up by inviting us to attend a meeting in the Town Hall that evening.

Well, at the evening performance he made us all feel so uncomfortable that, as soon as it was over, we held an informal gathering in the bar of the “King of Prussia,” and decided that temperance must be given a fair trial. The missionary had laid particular stress on the necessity of taking the rising generation and taking them early. So we decided to try it first upon the children, and see how it worked.

The missionary was delighted with our zeal. (Our zeal has often surprised and delighted strangers.) And he helped with a will. Early next morning he organised what he called a “Little Drops of Water League,” and a juvenile branch of the Independent Order of Good Templars, entitled the “Deeds not Words Lodge of Tiny Knights of Abstinence.” Each of these had its insignia. He sent us down the patterns as soon as he returned to Plymouth, and within a week the drapers’ shops were full of little scarves and ribbons–white and gold for the girls, pink and silver for the boys. By this time there wasn’t a child under fourteen but had taken the pledge; and as for narrow blue ribbon, it could not be supplied fast enough. I heard talk, too, of a juvenile fife-and-drum band; and the mothers had already begun stitching banners for the processions. I tell you it was pleasant, over a pipe and glass, to watch all these preparations, and think how much better the world would be when the rising generation came to take our places.

But, of course, no popular movement ever took root in our town without a “tea-drink” or some such public function. And you may judge of our delight when, on applying to the Vicar, we heard that he had been talking to the Squire, Sir Felix Felix-Williams, and Sir Felix would gladly preside. Sir Felix suggested the following programme–(1) A Public Lecture in the Town Hall, with a Magic Lantern to exhibit the results of excessive drinking. The missionary would lecture, and Sir Felix would take the chair. (2) The lecture over, the children were to form outside in procession and march up behind the Town Band to Sir Felix’s great covered tennis-court, where tea would be spread.