Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

“It may alter her determination. A woman is sure to soften into charity and forgiveness. She can't help it.”

“If you were to ask Sheila now, she would say she had forgiven you already. But that is a different matter from get ting her to resume her former method of life with you. To tell you the truth, I should strongly advise her, if I were to give advice at all, not to attempt anything of the sort. One failure is bad enough, and has wrought sufficient trouble.”

“ Then what am I to do, Ingram ?”

“ You must judge for yourself what is the most likely way of winning back Sheila's confidence in you, and the most likely conditions under which she might be induced to join you again. You need not expect to get her back into that Square, I should fancy; that experiment has rather broken down."

“Well,” said Lavender, “I shan't bore you any more just now about my affairs. Look after your dinner, old fellow; your starving yourself won't help me much.”

"I don't mean to starve myself at all,” said Ingram, steadily making his way through the abundant dishes his friend had ordered. “But I had a very good luncheon this morning with

“ With Sheila," Lavender said, quickly.

“Yes. Does it surprise you to find that she is in a place where she can get food ? I wish the poor child had made better use of her opportunities.”

“Ingram," he said, after a minute, “could you take some money from me, without her knowing of it, and try to get her some of the little things she likes—some delicacies, you know—they might be smuggled in, as it were, with out her knowing who had paid for them? There was ice-pudding, you know, with strawberries in it, that she was fond of-4"

“My dear fellow, a woman in her position thinks of something else than ice-pudding in strawberries— ".

“But why shouldn't she have it all the same? I would give twenty pounds to get some little gratification of that

sort conveyed to her; and if you could try, Ingram- "

“My dear fellow, she has got everything she can want: there was no icepudding at luncheon, but doubtless there will be at dinner."

So Sheila was staying in a house in which ices could be prepared ? Lavender's suggestion had had no cunning intention in it; but here was an obvious piece of information. She was in no humble lodging-house, then. She was either staying with some friends-and she had no friends but Lavender's friends —or she was staying at an hotel. He remembered that she had once dined at the Langham, Mrs. Kavanagh having persuaded her to go to meet some American visitors. Might she have gone thither ?

Lavender was somewhat silent during the rest of that meal; for he was thinking of other things besides the mere question as to where Sheila might be staying. He was trying to imagine what she may have felt before she was driven to this step. He was trying to recall all manner of incidents of their daily life that he now saw might have appeared to her in a very different light from that in which he saw them. He was wondering, too, how all this could be altered ; and a new life began for them both, if that were still possible.

They had gone up-stairs into the smoking-room, when a card was brought to Lavender.

“Young Mosenberg is below," he said to Ingram. “He will be a livelier companion for you than I could be. Waiter, ask this gentleman to come up.”

The handsome Jew-boy came eagerly into the room, with much excitement visible on his face.

“Oh, do you know," he said to Lavender, “I have found out where Mrs. Lavender is, yes: she is at your aunt's house. I saw her this afternoon

for one moment "

He stopped ; for he saw by the vexation on Ingram's face that he had done something wrong.

destinad

“Is it a mistake?" he said. “Is it playing a perversely wrong game; and a secret?"

so forth. And yet his spirits were not “It is not likely to be a secret if you much downcast. have got hold of it,” said Ingram, “Is Peter Hewetson still at Tarbert, sharply.

do you know?” he asked of Ingram. I am very sorry,” said the boy. “I believe so. I heard of him lately. “I thought you were all anxious to He and one or two more are there." know

I suppose you'll look in on them if "It does not matter in the least,” you go North ?” said Lavender, quietly, to both of them. “Certain. The place is badly perI shall not seek to disturb her. I am fumed, but picturesque; and there is about to leave London.”

generally plenty of whisky about." “Where are you going ?said the “When do you go North ?” boy.

“I don't know. In a week or two." “I don't know yet.”

That was all that Lavender hinted of That, at least, had been part of the his plans. He went home early that result of his meditations; and Ingram, night, and spent an hour or two in looking at him, wondered whether he packing up some things, and in writing meant to go away without trying to say a long letter to his aunt, which was one word to Sheila.

destined considerably to astonish that “Look here, Lavender," he said, lady. Then he lay down, and had a “ you must not fancy we were trying to few hours' rest. play any useless and impertinent trick. In the early morning he went out and To-morrow or next day Sheila will leave walked across Kensington Gardens down your aunt's house; and then I should to the Gore. He wished to have one have told you that she had been there, look at the house in which Sheila was; and how the old lady received her. It or perhaps he might, from a distance, was Sheila's own wish that the lodgings see her come out on a simple errand ? she is going to should not be known. He knew, for example, that she had She fancies that would save both of you a superstitious liking for posting her a great deal of unnecessary and fruitless letters herself; in wet weather or dry, pain, do you see. That really is her she invariably carried her own correonly object in wishing to have any con- spondence to the nearest pillar-post. cealment about the matter.”

Perhaps he might have one glimpse of “ But there is no need for any such her face, to see how she was looking, concealment,” he said. “You may tell before he left London, Sheila that if she likes to stay on with There were few people about; one or my aunt, so much the better; and I two well-known lawyers and merchants take it very kind of her that she went were riding by to have their morning there, instead of going home, or to a canter in the Park; the shops were strange house."

being opened. Over there was the “Am I to tell her that you mean to house—with its dark front of bricks, its leave London?”

hard ivy, and its small windows with “ Yes."

formal red curtainsin which Sheila They went into the billiard-room. was immured. That was certainly not Mosenberg was not permitted to play, the palace that a beautiful Sea-Princess as he had not dined in the club; but should have inhabited. Where were Ingram and Lavender proceeded to have the pine woods around it, and the lofty a game, the former being content to hills, and the wild beating of the waves accept something like thirty in a hun- on the sands below ? And now it dred. It was speedily very clear that seemed strange and sad that just as he Lavender's heart was not in the contest. was about to go away to the North, and He kept forgetting which ball he had breathe the salt air again, and find the been playing ; missing easy shots; strong west winds blowing across the

mountain peaks and through the furze, Sheila, a daughter of the sea and the rocks, should be hiding herself in obscure lodgings in the heart of a great city. Perhaps—he could not but think at this time--if he had only the chance of speaking to her for a couple of moments he could persuade her to forgive him everything that had happened, and go away with him-away from London and all the associations that had vexed her and almost broken her heart-to the free, and open, and joyous life on the far sea-coasts of the Hebrides.

Something caused him to turn his head for a second, and he knew that Sheila was coming along the pavement, not from, but towards the house. It was too late to think of getting out of

her way; and yet he dared not go up to her and speak to her, as he had wished to do. She, too, had seen him. There was a quick, frightened look in her eyes ; and then she came along, with her face pale, and her head downcast. He did not seek to interrupt her. His eyes, too, were lowered as she passed him without taking any notice of his presence, although the sad face and the troubled lips told of the pain at her heart. He had hoped, perchance, for one word, for even a sign of recognition ; but she went by him calmly, gravely, and silently. She went into the house ; and he turned away, with a weight at his heart, as though the gates of heaven had been closed against him..

To be continued.

GOTHENBURG AGAIN.

It may be there are times, in the course of political and social movements, when one may properly rest and be thankful. There are certainly times when one may be thankful, but must not rest; as, for instance, when a question has reached such a stage as the great Liquor question occupies among us to-day. After a vast amount of talk and belligerent fuss and counterfuss, we have got a new Licensing Act. But what does it amount to ? The Act. with all its clumsiness of wording. has to do it justice, made some progress in the right direction by its provisions against adulteration, and by diminishing the number of hours in the twentyfour during which public-houses may be open. But the main difficulty, the big bone of contention-who ought to be the grantors of licences, and who and how numerous the grantees-it leaves practic cally untouched. True, there are hence forward to be standing Licensing Committees (of justices) in counties and boroughs, who will have a veto upon every grant of a new licence : but each licence-holder will remain what he was, an independent unit-so far as his private relations with distillers and brewers leave room for independencestrengthened in his vested interest by every annual renewal, and playing for his own hand with all the keenness in spired by a not always scrupulous competition. No attempt has been made by the Legislature to encourage or even to render feasible the trial of any system of farming the licences of a district en bloc to a responsible Company, or handing them over to the local authorities. And yet the good results that have been achieved in Sweden generally, and notably in Gothenburg, by giving facilities for the concentration of liquor licences in a few hands, have been and are remarkable enough to make

something of the kind at least worth special notice in our Statute-book. “ Because we can't do all we would,

Does it follow, to do nothing's good ?" A detailed account of the manner in which Gothenburg deals with the hand-in-hand questions of liquor and licensing was given in this Magazine' by the present writer some time ago; but it may be useful to recapitulate the leading features of the system by way of preface to what we purpose adding to-day about it. purpose aq

In Gothenburg all the publichouse licences are held by a single “Retailing Company," incorporated by royal charter royal charter. Each licence representing, as with us, the right to open one public-house, the directors use in different parts of the town just so many of their licences as they deem required by the population. In the first place they take care that all houses in which liquor is sold are light, well ventilated, and roomy. Into each they put a manager, on the terms that he is to take all his supplies of spirits from the Company, and to pay over to them every farthing received for spirits sold, his remuneration consisting of the profits on his sales of tea and coffee, malt liquors, cigars, and eatables, supplemented, in most cases, by a tixed salary. Once a year the Company's balance-sheet is submitted to and audited by the municipal authorities, and thereupon the entire amount of the net profits for the past twelve months is paid into the municipal treasury and becomes part of the general revenue of the town. All this is an embodiment

1 The Licensing Question in Sweden, in Macmillan's Magazine for February 1872.

? In Sweden, a country of spirit drinkers, the trade in malt liquors has only quite recently been deemed important enough to require legislative regulation and restriction,

and earnest striving after the realization of sundry definite conclusions about the drink traffic at which the Gothenburgers arrived eight years ago. They then made up their minds that, though they could not and would not stamp out the spirit trade, they could and must regulate it ; and that their way of doing so should be to limit the number of spirit shops, to insure the purity of the spirits offered for sale, and, the most important point of all, to make it nobody's interest to stimulate the consumption. And by keeping these principles steadily in view, the Gothenburg Company have been, and it may be hoped will continue to be, the means of diminishing sub. stantially and permanently the sumtotal of drunkenness and crime amongst their fellow-townsmen.

Not that all is couleur de rose here; far from it. An enterprise like that in which the Gothenburg Company is engaged is pretty sure to have its full share of difficulties and disappoint ments. This last year, 1872, for instance, must have been a disheartening time for the believers in the system; for some ugly and uncomfortable statistics met them at the close of it. The number of police convictions for drunkenness, which for several years after the establishment of the Company (in 1865) had steadily diminished, showed a decided tendency to increase again ; and cases of delirium tremens appeared also to have largely increased; both facts pointing unmistakably to an increase of drinking in the town. Yes, an increase of drinking there had been, no doubt; but was the system to blame for it? It was a good occasion for the enemy to blaspheme. What easier than to say, “Here is just what might have been expected all along. New brooms sweep clean; and the Company, suddenly substituting its un interested dispensers of unadulterated liquor for the profit-seeking mob of individual publicans, and shutting up thirty per cent of the drink-shops, was a great blow to the drunkards for a time. But the dram-lovers have recovered their spirits now. They were rather

frightened at first by the Company's philanthropic manifestoes, the severe cleanliness of their houses, and the regulations and tariffs and what not on the walls. But, after all, the liquor was undeniably good and unimpeachably strong; and so long as one was not obviously 'overloaded,' (the expressive Swedish word for 'drunk,') one might get as many drams at a Company's house as at any dram-shop in the unenlightened old days. And it gives an extra spice and stimulus to brandy-bibbing to feel that you are doing it under the express sanction of à most respectable corporation; and what an excuse and salve for a little over-indulgence in the remembrance that every additional glass of spirits drunk will help to swell the sum of profits to be paid over by the Company to the town treasury, and so indirectly lessen the burdens of the ratepayer ! No wonder that you find an increase of drinking, where you have a system that makes things easy and comfortable for the drunkard, and tempts people to dram-drinking who never went inside a public-house till the Company made it quite a respectable thing to be seen there."

So might sneer the enemy; but meanwhile there were fortunately not a few earnest folk, outsiders as well as directors of the Company, who were not to be frightened out of their belief by sneers, and who, delving into the roots of the matter, were soon cheered by finding causes enough to account for the ugly statistics, quite apart from, and indeed acting in despite of, the action of the Company. In the first place, though the recorded cases of drunkenness and delirium tremens for 1872 show a numerical increase over those for 1871 and 1870, there has been no increase in proportion to population. Gothenburg is a very rapidly growing town. When the Retailing Company began operations, eight years ago, it had to deal with a population of 37,000 or thereabouts. By the end of 1872 this population had increased to upwards of 58,200 ; so that the latter year might fairly have claimed

« AnteriorContinuar »