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THE NATIONAL HOME-READING…

OUR SOLDIERS' RETURN*

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OUR SOLDIERS' RETURN- DRINK AND PATRIOTISM. The sister of a soldier returning from South Africa writesOur troops are now returning to their mother country as quickly as possible; they have had nearly twelve months of strict discipline, and the war, with its attendant sufferings, will have taught many of them much in the way of patience, endurance, abstinence, and thoughtfulness for others. Gold is purified by fire, man by trials and sufferings, and though I do not by any means imply that all our splendid men who bravely went to face death in South Africa are worthless scamps, yet the soldier is, we know, not altogether infallible any more than any other mortal, and the war having rigorously taught its lessons and brought out all the best points in the men, I know that many .who went out with a shadow of their own casting on their lives will return to us refined. liked the gold, and freed from dross- new men," and full of good resolutions. But, alas! some men, in spite of their good resolu- tions, are deplorably weak, and who can answer for these when once more free from discipline and in the midst of temptations? It is for such as these-the weak-that I plead most, for some, though brave and strong as lions in the battlefield, are weak as water when brought face to face with temptation. It behoves us, therefore, to welcome the return of our glorious heroes in a befitting manner, and to shew them our heart-felt gratitude for so gloriously up- holding ttle British nag, by lending them a LIOIPIUG unuct I/uwaras luriuei hJ. HIe, instead of degrading them by offering them intoxicants—and that to such an extent as to at once scatter all their good resolutions, take away all their manliness, and level them with, I might say, the beasts of the earth. I saw a young soldier in khaki, only about 20 years of age, being led through the streets of Liverpool. He was in a completely helpless, pitable state, and supported on both sides by two men—I presume his companions—who, very probably, were altogether answerable for his condition. The sight turned my heart sick with pity. Why cannot "friends" be what they pro- fess to be-real friends, instead of bitterest enemies ? Many a good but weak man has been spoilt-nay more, utterly ruined by his so- called friends. I am not a teetotaller myself, and I do not, except in certain cases, advocate total abstinence; on the contrary, I think a little in a glass" does a man good some- times, but "too much of a thing is good for nothing," as they say in Latin, and if a man does not know when he has had as much as is good for him, why, then, I would say, do not take it at all. In the case of the soldiers returning from South Africa, and from nearly twelve months of almost total absti- nence, intoxicants will, of course, affect them all the more, thereupon all the more reason for them te be on their guard and be temperate, if not temperance men, and I would suggest that all those friends" who mean well towards the returning soldier, offer him money or tobacco-even though it be only a cigarette or pipeful—in preference to drink. It is frequently said that smoking leads to drinking (intoxication), but I do not think that is neces- sarily so, now there are so many pleasant non- intoxicating drinks. Surely patriotism and intoxication should not go together! for patriotism means love of one's country, while intoxication means the utter ruin of it. The whole country has shewn its devotion to its beloved Queen and gallant defenders by so nobly coming forward with voluntary assistance, in sending out comforts for the soldiers abroad, and looking to their families at home. I, having been one of the war fund collectors, could tell some pitiful stories of poor poverty- stricken sympathisers who denied themselves common necessaries in order to help the fund and send out comforts for the troops. And now the war is closing and our soldiers are returning-we have done all we; could for them while away-let us now shew our loyalty and patriotism once more by giving them each a hearty welcome and a helping-hand as they return. They write home that they are wondering how we shall receive them in dear Old England." Let us receive. them right royally, with all the honour, pomp, and glorification befitting weather-beaten, long-tried, victorious heroes. Let us do all this, and more, but-for God's sake, and their own, do not let us make them drunk. I write strongly because I feel strongly for these brave men, and I ask all merchants and other employers who have, or are likely to have, vacant posts in their establishments, to publish the fact, and to say that they will give preference (if they will) to steady, eligible reservists and volunteers, for these men, culled from every social grade, resigned their employ- ment to go to the front, and, consequently, have now to start life over again. A helping-hand in this way would, indeed, be a helping-hand (and a right patriotic one too) which would be thoroughly appreciated by all of our gentlemen in khaki," and would very greatly encourage our volunteers to again come forward if, at any future time, their valuable and very creditable services should be required.

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