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LOVE'S SEASON.

-.-GEORGE ELIOT.

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"FROM WANT OF THOUGHT."

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"FROM WANT OF THOUGHT." By Mrs. Ellen Ross. "Evil is wrought from want of thought as well as from want of heart."—THOMAS HOOD. John Cuthbert had his shop set out in the most tempting and brilliant style which his own and his assistants' in- genuity could devise, and very satisfied was everybody concerned with the effect produced. It was a large grocery and provision shop in a. small town in the north of England-a shop which eclipsed all the other shops in the place in its extent and the variety of its commodities and John Cuthbert was recognised by all his fellow-townsmen as the leading tradesman of Keeley. He had a large and well-furnished house his wife and children dressed like gentry," the townsfolk said and they pronounced him what be really was—the most prosperous man in the town. He and his family bore unblemished characters out- wardly they kept all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." John was a churchwarden, was on the Board of Guardians, and was looked upon as an up- right, fair dealing, and humane man. His wife was affable and kind to her humble neighbours, and good to the poor and his seven children were growing up in an exemplary manner. John was an energetic and devoted business man, and he took an honest and laudable pride in buying and selling. Just now at Christmas time he was quite enthusistic about the arranging and decorating of his large shop and the admiration which his efforts awakened in the passers-by, who stood gazing and gazing at his grand display ere they went on their way, pleased him immensely. About two years previously John Cuthbert had availed himself of the "privilege" held out to grocers of obtaining a license for the sale of winas and spirits; and now in his Christmas display these viands figured most prominently. They were in rows in the forefront, they were grouped in masses behind tempting pyramids of plums and currants, and decorated with the gayest of his Christmas wreaths and bonquets. They were ticketed at prices to suit all purchasers, and were evidently considered by John to be a most desirable and necessary part of the Christmas cheer which he had provided for his numerous customers. Mrs. Cuthbert was not often seen in the shop. She was an excellent housewife, and she considered it her best policy to look after house and children, and to leave the shopkeeping entirely to her husband and his young men. Just now she was busy with the arrangements for a grand party which her children were to have on Christmas Eve, and she was almost as pleased as they were them- selves in preparing for an evening of joyous excitement. But when her husband came to call her into the shop to see his window dressing, to which he had just put the finishing touches, she left her goodies to the servant, took off her kitchen apron, and went, trim and cheerful, into the shop to admire her husband's taste and skill. She looked round with an appreciative eye, and could suggest very little in the way of improvement, when asked to do so. The rows and groups of bottles with their murderous contents gave no offence to her eye, nor to her moral sense. Yet she was a woman with a tender conscience and a sympathetic heart, who would not knowingly and wilfully do an injury to any creature. If evil were being done by the pushing of the sale of those deadly drinks within their walls it was all through want of thought rather than through want of heart on her own and her husband's part. Having finished her survey of the shop, Mrs. Cuthbert was about to return to her kitchen, when her eye fell upon a young servant girl, who was one of the few customers then in the shop. One of the assistants had just placed before her a bottle of gin and a bottle of brandy, which she was transferring to a bag which she carried under her shawl. "Well, Susan, how is your mistress to-day?" asked Mrs. Cuthbert, kindly. "She's but poorly, ma'am, thank you," said the girl in a nervous manner, and reddening as she spoke. Will you tell her that my children are very deeply disappointed that she cannot let Alice and Mary come to their party; and ask her, Susan, with my compliments, whether she will not alter her decision, just to please the young folks all round." The asssistant had now moved away to another cus- tomer, and, leaning across the counter, Susan replied in a. confidential whisper, and in a distressed manner, "Oh, please, ma'am, the little girls are quite broken-hearted about not coming. But what can anyone do ? They've no clothes fit to go to a party in and there's nobody to see after them, nor set a stitch for them, even so much as to mend their stockings and sew on their buttons. And Missis she seems to be getting worse and worse. She promised my mother when I came to her that she would never let me darken the door of a public, seeing I was brought up teetotal; and she hasn't either but isn't it just as bad her sending me here every blessed day for drink, until she's nearly ruined herself body and soul? And Master goes on about the grocery bill, just as if I was wasting things in the kitchen, which I never do and the fact is we're all just as miserable as we can be through this stuff. I hate to fetch it for her, but if I didn't she'd send the dear children, and I try to keep it from them as much as I can." Susan spoke in a quick, excited way, and finished with a little sob and tears in her eyes. "I'm very sorry," said Mrs. Cuthbert with heartfelt concern. "The home must be very wretched, Susan. But does Mrs. Stevens really drink much ?" "Why, that dreadfnl, ma'am, that you'll see whether she won't be sending me here again either to-morrow or next day." And will she have drunk those two bottles of wine ?" "Not wine, ma'am, but spirits, and very soon they'll be finished, I can assure you. It's dreadful to see her carry on sometimes, just like a raving mad-woman, and the dear children are frightened to death at her. No, indeed, there won't be any Christmas fun for them, ma'am, so they needn't Be thinking about parties or any- thing else that's pleasant." Susan turned away with a heavy sigh, and Mrs. Cuthbert said, "I had no idea she was in such a bad state, Susan, I am very sorry." Susan went her way, with the deadly stuff hidden under her shawl that was marring happiness and wrecking the home of this Christian grocer's neighbour. And as Mrs. Cuthbert's eye fell on the shining, decorated groups of bottles set out in such tempting array, a chill fear struck to her honest heart that she was not altogether guiltless in the matter of the ruin of this weak neighbour of hers. She turned away with a sigh, which was like an echo of Susan's, and went back to her pleasant household duties with a somewhat heavy heart. That evening when alone with her husband she told him what had passed between herself and Susan. Kind- hearted John Cuthbert looked much concerned, as he replied, "I have noticed that for some time drink has been the heaviest item in their account; but I had no idea it was all consumed by that miserable woman. Dear, dear What a pity it is people can't be moderate John felt secretly uneasy about the matter; but the next day the tide of business flowed so strongly that all thought of unhappy Mrs. Stevens and her wretched home was swept away. Mrs. Cuthbert, too, was able to shake off the painful impressions made upon her mind, for she was so busy amongst her joyous children making pre- paration for their Christmas festivities. But a cloud was already gathering over the brightness of her life. On the day before Christmas Eve a telegram came to her from a young niece, her only sister's eldest child, begging her to come at once to see her mother, who was dangerously ill. It was brief, as these messages of ill-omen generally are, giving no particulars, and leaving the imagination to torture the heart of the startled re- cipient. Mrs. Cuthbert consulted with her husband, and hastily decided to go. Calling her eldest daughter, Mrs. Cuthbert said, "lam called away to go to your Aunt Lyon, who is dangerousiy ill, Mabel. But all things are ready for your party to-morrow evening and I think you will manage very well without me, and I hope you will enjoy yourselves." "Oh mamma!" exclaimed Mabel, "What a shame that you shouldn't be with us Couldn't aunt wait till after Christmas for you ?" And such a long way to go from home just now; right down to Hampshire. It's quite dreadful." "There are things more dreadful than losing mother just for two or three days, Mabel; and I don't like to hear you talk selfishly," answered Mrs. Cuthbert very gravely. I do not go for my own enjoyment, but for the good ef others, and I think I should be spared cheerfully." Mrs. Cuthbert soon realised that there were indeed things far more dreadful for a family of children than losing their mother for a few days, than even losing her by death. For when she arrived at her destination late that night she found her sister's home a scene of the wildest distress and confusion. To her astonishment and horror, she found her suffering from delirium tremens; her distracted husband and frightened children helpless with dismay. "Delirium tremens/" echoed Mrs. Cuthbert, when informed of her malady. Why, I thought that only came through drink." "It is drink that has done it, Mary," answered Mr. Lyon, sadly. Your sister is a. confirmed drunkard, I am sorry to tell you." "And why have I never known this" she asked, bitterly. I might have done something to prevent it; I little thought when she told me in her letters that she was ill and wretched that it was anything more than her ordinary weakness and nervousness." But you remember, aunt, that in the summer when I wrote to you I told you I was sure mamma was taking more to drink than was good for her," said Alice Lyon, a fair, intelligent girl of sixteen, who stood by sobbing. "Yes, and I wrote back immediately to warn her against it," said Mrs. Cuthbert. "But if I was told no more, how could I gather from that that she had become a drunkard ? Let me go and see her." She has been unmanageable all day, but the doctor has got her to sleep now, said Alice, and we are hoping that when she w^kes up she will be better. I will take you to see her, aunt. Mrs. Cuthbert went sadly up the untidy, dusty stairs and into the disorderly bedroom, which all loudly pro- claimed its mistress's deficiencies, and was such a con- trast to her own neat and well-kept home. There, sleeping the drunkard's unrefreshing sleep, lay the wreck of her dear and only sister, guarded by a powerfully- built hired nurse. Mrs. Cuthbert sat down and gazed at the unconscious form, at the shockingly marred face which was once so comely, and as she quietly wept she thought of her miserable neighbour, Mrs. Stevens, and wondered whether her home was as wretched, and her family as despairing, as these were. We must try to save her yet, Alice," she said, thinking cf what had been accomplished here and there by some of her temperance friends, with whom, however, she had but little sympathy. "Others have been saved and restored who had sunk as low as this and why not she ? surely 13 ter we caB do 80mething to save her, What can we do ?" asked Alice, sadly. Talking and pleading are no good, and we can put no restraint upon her. If we could lock her up in a temperance I asylum she might come out quite cured in the course of a year. But the law won't allow us to do that to save her and it seems to me there's no other way. Temptations are multiplied for poor weak creatures, but no new way of escape is provided. It is very hard and very wrong," added Alice, with vehement bitterness. "I want to know all about her; let us go a way and talk," said Mrs. Cuthbert, rising and taking her niece's hand. They went into the next room, and there Alice told the sad and common story of her mother's decline and fall. She had always been accustomed to take drink by her doctor's advice, but in what is called strict moderation. Being of a. nervous temperament, and not robust in health, she took to resort to it in fits of mental depression. "But how did she get it?" asked Mrs. Cuthbert. Did your father allow her to have large quantities in the house?" "No, aunt. At first nothing extra came into the house. But she used to go out and get glass after glass of wine at the different confectioners' shops. Then, worst of all, our grocer that we have dealt with for years must needs go and transfer himself into a publican, to tempt his customers. He took out a license, and sent out his wine and spirit circulars roundjthe town. This is what I consider completed poor mamma's ruin. She would hesitate to send to a public-house day after day for the dreadful stuff; but she has had no hesitation whatever in ordering any amount from her respectable grocer. Oh, I feel he has got something to answer for in putting this new temptation in the way of weak people like poor mamma! He had a good business before. Why did he want to increase it by doing this, which means ruin to his neighbourhood ? I told papa more than once that he ought to take his custom from him and give it to one who is simply a grocer, and not publican. And now things have come to this dreadful pass, he is going to do so. And I think that nobody who has any concern for his fellow-creatures should encourage a grocer who sells drink. He is a perfect curse. In one way he does more harm than a publican, because he catches respectable wives and mothers, who would not like to buy drink in any other way. I wish all good people would leave the grocers who have licences, and let them know the reason why. Perhaps it would open their eyes to see the deadly mischief that they are doing, though possibly without meaning too." There was a silence after this, for Mrs. Cuthbert could not speak. She felt as if an arrow had struck to her heart. A suspicion seemed to dart across Alice's mind, and she exclaimed impetuously, I do hope uncle will never be tempted to get a license to sell these things in your shop, aunt. I should feel sure that some dreadful judgment would come upon him for it, if he did." Mrs. Cuthbert burst into tears. "The judgment has come, if we deserved one," she sobbed. We have had a license for about two years, Alice but it never struck me that we were doing a wrong and dangerous thing." Alice's fair young brow darkened, and she gazed sternly at her aunt's bowed head. And has it never come to your knowledge, aunt, that you have been doing harm to any of your customers ?" she asked, in an unsteady voice. One sad case has lately come to my knowledge," said Mrs. Cuthbert. And do you think that one is the only one ?" asked Alice. And even if it were, is not one enough to have ruined ?" Isn't it enough for our grocer to know that he has been the means of completing poor mother's ruin, and spoiling for ever the happiness of our home ? Surely one is enough. Oh dear! how ever could good uncle John find in his heart so turn drink-seller "We have done it thoughtlessly my child," answered Mrs. Cuthbert, very sorrowfully- "But I had no idea till this hour what ruin through drink really meant. It has never come home till now when I see my dear sister a wreck, and the house so utterly miserable. But I do hope it is not a hopeless case, Alice. We will hope that the mischief may be undone." No, it can't be undone, aunt. It may be patched up; we shall see. But when I think of one and another in the town who went right to destruction, in spite of every thing done to save them, I have a horrid fear that mamma is also to be one of these who can't be restored." No, no, don't say that, Alice sobbed Mrs. Cuthbert. She must be restored I will take her back with me, and try everything to save her." To a shop stocked with wines and spirits responded Alice, with bitter sarcasm. "Ah, yes!" exclaimed Mrs. Cuthbert, with a little gasp, as if she had received a sudden blow. No you must leave her to us, and we must do the best we can," said Alice. "See what a Christmas we shall spend. I suppose Cousins will have a very grand time in your happy home." "But I shall never know another hour's happiness until your home is made happy, my dear child, and my neighbour, Mrs. Stevens's home, too," said Mrs. Cuthbert, with deep emotion. What a Christmas those poor little Stevenses will have I could never have imagined the half if I had not come to this desolated place. But now I have been bitten, I can feel for those who are suffering." Next day a fresh revelation was made to her when she beheld her sister shaking from head to foot like a palsied person, and wailing and imploring for drink. When at length the dismal Christmas and New Year had somehow been got through, Mrs. Cuthbert went back to her home a sadder and a wiser woman. Before the next Christmas came round, Mrs. Lyon was sheltering in her sister's home, to see what a change there would do towards perfecting the restoration already begun. But ere she came the shining rows of bottles had all dis- appeared from honest John Cuthbert's shop, and when next he decorated his place for Chistmas there was nothing displayed which could ruin the souls of his fellow- townsfolk. We will be satisfied with legitimate profits from a legitimate trade," said this worthy grocer. It was not in my heart to do wrong to my neighbours it was all from want of thought. But now conviction has come to me; I will respect my conscience, and cease to do evil knowingly. If John Cuthbert required any recompense for the sacrifice he made in giving up his license, he had it in peace which a conscience void of offence afforded him. I will keep myself guiltless of the ruin of my neigh- bours," he said. And a blessing came to him for this resolve.

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GLAMORGANSHIRE EPIPHANY QUARTER…

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