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Chambers, William / Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 427 Volume 17, New Series, March 6, 1852
Produced by Malcolm Farmer, Richard J. Shiffer and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team.









CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S
INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.


No. 427. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, MARCH 6, 1852. PRICE 1½ _d._




THE CHARITABLE CHUMS' BENEFIT CLUB.


The 'Mother Bunch' public-house stands modestly aside from the din,
traffic, and turmoil of a leading London thoroughfare, and retires, like
a bashful maiden, from the gaze of a crowd to the society of its own
select circle. It is situated in a short and rather narrow street,
leading from an omnibus route running north from the city to nowhere in
particular--or, if particulars must be given, to that complicated
assemblage of carts, cabs, and clothes-lines; of manure heaps and
disorganised pumps; of caged thrushes, blackbirds, and magpies; of dead
dogs and cats, and colonies of thriving rats; of imprisoned terriers and
goats let out on parole; of shrill and angry maternity and mud-loving
infancy; and of hissing, curry-combing grooms and haltered horses, to
which Londoners have given the designation of a Mews. Mr Peter Bowley,
the landlord of the 'Mother Bunch,' was the late butler of the late Sir
Plumberry Muggs; and having succeeded, on the demise of the baronet, to
a legacy of L.500, and finding himself unable any longer to resist the
charms of his seven years' comforter and counsellor, the cook,
supplemented as they were by the attractions of a legacy of the like
amount, he had united his destiny and wealth with hers in one common
cause. The name of Sir Plumberry Muggs, even though its worthy
proprietor was defunct, was still of sufficient influence to procure a
licence for his butler; and within a few months of his departure, Mr
Bowley had opened the new Inn and Tavern for the accommodation of Her
Majesty's thirsty lieges. He had congratulated himself upon the
selection of the site, and upon the suitableness of the premises to the
requirements of a good trade; and his heart swelled within him, as he
sat at the head of his own table, on the occasion of the house-warming,
dispensing with no niggard hand the gratuitous viands and unlimited
beer, which were at once to symbolise and inaugurate the hospitality of
his mansion. He had a snug bar curtained with crimson drapery, for the
convenience of those who, declining the ostentation of the public room,
might prefer to imbibe their morning-draught with becoming privacy. He
had a roomy tap-room, where a cheerful fire was to blaze the winter
through, and a civil Ganymede minister to the wants of the humblest
guest. There was a handsome parlour hung round with sporting-prints,
with cushioned seats and polished mahogany tables, where the tradesmen
of the neighbourhood might take their evening solace after the fatigues
of business; and, more than all this, he had an immense saloon on the
first floor above, calculated for social conviviality on the largest
scale, and furnished with mirrors, pictures, and an old grand-piano, a
portion of the _lares_ of the deceased Sir Plumberry Muggs.

Mr Bowley, however, soon made the unpleasing discovery, that it is one
thing to open an establishment of the kind--which had already swallowed
up two-thirds of his capital--and another thing to induce the public to
patronise it. Notwithstanding the overflow which had gathered at his
house-warming, and the numberless good wishes which had been expressed,
and toasts which had been drunk to his prosperity, yet the prosperity
did not come. Of the hundred and fifty enthusiastic well-wishers who had
done honour to his entertainment, squeezed his hand, and sworn he was a
trump, not a dozen ever entered the house a second time. Do what he
would, Bowley could not create a business; and the corners of his mouth
began visibly to decline ere the experiment had lasted a couple of
months. He made a desperate effort to get up a Free-and-easy; he had the
old piano tuned, and set an old fellow to play upon it with open
windows; exhibited a perpetual announcement of 'A Concert this Evening;'
and himself led off the harmony, to the tune of _Tally-ho_, at the top
of his voice. It was all of no avail. The half-dozen grooms who joined
in feeble chorus did not pay the expense of the gas; and he found the
Free-and-easy, without abettors, the most difficult thing in the world.
So he gave it up, and fell into a brown study, which engrossed him for a
month. He had visions of Whitecross Street before his eyes; and poor Mrs
Bowley sighed again, and sighed in vain, after the remembrance of Sir
Plumberry's kitchen, and its vanished joys. The only symptom of business
was the gathering of half-a-dozen nightly customers, who sipped their
grog for an hour or two in the parlour; and one of these, moreover, had
never paid a farthing since he had patronised the house. There were
twenty grogs scored up against him, besides a double column of beers. Mr
Bowley will put an end to that, at anyrate; so he signals the bibulous
debtor, and having got him within the folds of the crimson curtains, he
politely informs him, that credit is no part of his system of doing
business, and requests payment. Mr Nogoe, the convivial defaulter, who
is a gentleman of fifty, who has seen the world, and knows how to manage
it, is decidedly of Bowley's opinion--that, as a general rule, credit is
a bad plan; inasmuch as, so far as his experience goes in the public
line, to afford it to your customers, is the first step towards losing
it yourself. But he feels himself free to confess, that he is at the
present moment under a cloud, and that it would be inconvenient to him
to liquidate his score just then, though, of course, if Bowley insists,
&c. While Bowley is pausing to consider which will be the best way to
insist, Mr Nogoe carelessly leads the conversation to another topic, and
begins to descant upon the marvellous capabilities of the 'Mother
Bunch' for doing a first-rate trade; and hints mysteriously at the
splendid thing that might be made of it, only supposing that his friend
Bowley knew his own interest, and went the right way to work. The
landlord, who is now all ear, and who knows his own interest well
enough, pours out to his guest a glass of his favourite 'cold without,'
and seating himself opposite him at the little table, encourages him to
be more explicit. A long private and confidential conversation ensues,
the results of which are destined to change the aspect of affairs at the
'Mother Bunch.' We shall recount the process for the information of our
readers.

Next morning, Mr Bowley is altogether a new man; brisk, cheerful, and
active, he has a smile for everybody, and a joke and a 'good-morning'
even for the cobbler, who has the cure of soles in that very
questionable benefice, the Mews. He visits his tap-room guests, and
informs them of a plan which is in operation to improve the condition of
the labouring-classes, of which they will hear more by and by. He is
profoundly impressed with the sublime virtues of charity, benevolence,
brotherly love, and, as he terms it, all that sort of thing. Day after
day, he is seen in close confab with Mr Nogoe, who is now as busy as a
bee, buzzing about here, there, and everywhere, with rolls of paper in
his hand, a pen behind his ear, and another in his mouth, and who is
never absent an hour together from the 'Mother Bunch,' where he has a
private room much frequented by active, middle-aged persons of a rather
seedy cast, and where he takes all his meals at the landlord's table.
The first-fruits of these mysterious operations at length appear in the
form of a prospectus of a new mutual-assurance society, under the
designation of 'The Charitable Chums' Benefit Club;' of which Mr Nogoe,
who has undertaken its organisation, is to act as secretary and chairman
at the preliminary meetings, and to lend his valuable assistance in
getting the society into working order. Under his direction, tens of
thousands of the prospectuses are printed, and industriously circulated
among the artisans, labourers, small tradesmen, and serving-men in all
parts of the town, both far and near. Promises of unheard-of advantages,
couched in language of most affectionate sympathy, are addressed to all
whom it may concern. The same are repeated again and again in the daily
and weekly papers. A public meeting is called, and the names of
intending members are enrolled; special meetings follow, held at the
large room of the 'Mother Bunch;' the enrolled members are summoned;
officers and functionaries are balloted for and appointed; rules and
regulations are drawn up, considered, adopted, certified, and printed.
Mr Nogoe is confirmed in his double function as secretary and treasurer.
Subscriptions flow in; and, to Bowley's infinite gratification, beer and
spirits begin to flow out. The Charitable Chums, though eminently
provident, are as bibulous as they are benevolent; for every sixpence
they invest for the contingencies of the future tense, they imbibe at
least half-a-crown for the exigencies of the present. The society soon
rises into a condition of astonishing prosperity. The terms being
liberal beyond all precedent, the Charitable Chums' becomes wonderfully
popular. A guinea a week during sickness, besides medical attendance,
and ten pounds at death, or half as much at the death of a wife, are
assured for half the amount of subscription payable at the old clubs.
The thing is as cheap as dirt. The clerk has as much as he can do to
enregister the names of new applicants, and keep accounts of the
entrance-money. By way of keeping the society before the public, special
meetings are held twice a month, to report progress, and parade the
state of the funds. Before the new society is a year old, they have
nearly one thousand pounds in hand; and Bowley's house, now known far
and wide as the centre and focus of the Charitable Chums, swarms with
that provident brotherhood, who meet by hundreds under the auspices of
'Mother Bunch,' to cultivate sympathy and brotherly love, and to
irrigate those delicate plants with libations of Bowley's gin and
Bowley's beer. The Free-and-easy is now every night choke full of
wide-mouthed harmonists. The 'Concert this Evening' is no longer a mere
mythic pretence, but a very substantial and vociferous fact. The old
grand-piano, and the old, ragged player, have been cashiered, and sent
about their business; and a bran-new Broadwood, presided over by a
rattling performer, occupies their place. Bowley's blooming wife,
attended by a brace of alcoholic naiads, blossoms beneath the crimson
drapery of the bar, and dispenses 'nods and becks, and wreathed smiles,'
and 'noggins of _max_,' and 'three-outers,' to the votaries of
benevolence and 'Mother Bunch;' and the landlord is happy, and in his
element, because the world goes well with him.

When Whitsuntide is drawing near, a general meeting of the club is
convened, for the purpose of considering the subject of properties. A
grand demonstration, with a procession of the members, is resolved upon:
it is to come off upon Whit-Monday. In spite of the remonstrance of a
mean-spirited Mr Nobody--who proposes that, by way of distinguishing
themselves from the rest of the thousand-and-one clubs who will
promenade upon that occasion, with music, flags, banners, brass-bands,
big drums, sashes, aprons, and white wands, they, the Charitable Chums,
shall walk in procession in plain clothes, and save their money till it
is wanted--and in spite of five or six sneaking, stingy individuals, so
beggarly minded as to second his proposition, and who were summarily
coughed down as not fit to be heard, the properties were voted; and the
majority, highly gratified at having their own way, gave _carte-blanche_
to their officers to do what they thought right, and for the credit of
the society. Accordingly, flags and banners of portentous size, together
with sashes, scarfs, and satin aprons, all inlaid with the crest of the
Charitable Chums--an open hand, with a purse of money in it--were
manufactured at the order of the secretary, and consigned in magnificent
profusion to the care of Mr Bowley, to be in readiness for the grand
demonstration. A monster banner, bearing the designation of the society
in white letters upon a ground of flame-coloured silk, hung on the
morning of the day from the parapet of Bowley's house, and obscured the
good 'Mother Bunch,' as she swung upon her hinges, in its fluttering
folds. The procession, which went off in irreproachable style, was
followed by a dinner at Highbury Barn, at which above a thousand members
sat down to table; and after which, thanks were voted to the different
officers of the club; and, in addition thereto, a gold snuff-box, with
an appropriate inscription, was presented to Mr Nogoe, for his
unparalleled exertions in the sacred cause of humanity, as represented
by their society.

The jovial Whitsuntide soon passed away, and so did the summer, and the
autumn was not long in following; and then came the cold winds, and
fogs, and hoar-frost of November. The autumn had been sickly with
fevers, and Dr Dosem, the club's medical man, had had more cases of
typhus to deal with than he found at all pleasant or profitable,
considering the terms upon which he had undertaken the physicking of the
Charitable Chums. He was heard to say, that it took a deal of drugs to
get the fever out of them; and that, though he worked harder than any
horse, he yet lost more of his patients than he had fair reason to
expect. With nearly fifteen thousand members, the deaths in the club
became alarmingly frequent. Nogoe, as he took snuff out of his gold box,
shrugged his shoulders at the rapid disappearance of the funds, as one
ten-pound cheque after another was handed over to the disconsolate
widows. His uneasiness was not at all alleviated by the reception of a
bill of two hundred and fifty pounds for properties, &c. among which
stood his snuff-box, set down at thirty-five guineas, upon which he
knew, for he had tried, that no pawnbroker would lend ten pounds. He
called a special council of all the officers of the club, and laid the
state of affairs before them. The first thing they did, was to pass a
vote for the immediate payment of the property bills; a measure which is
hardly to be wondered at, if we take into account that they were
themselves the creditors. The treasurer handed them a cheque for the
amount; and then, apprising them that there was now, with claims daily
increasing, less than two hundred pounds in hand, which must of
necessity be soon exhausted, demanded their advice. They advised a
reissue of prospectuses and advertisements; which being carried into
effect at the cost of a hundred pounds, brought a shoal of fresh
applicants, with their entrance-money, and for the moment relieved the
pressure upon the exchequer.

But when the November fogs brought the influenza, and a hundred of the
members were thrown upon their backs and the fund at once; when it
became necessary to engage additional medical assistance; and when, in
spite of unremitting energy in the departments of prospectusing,
puffing, and personal canvassing, the money leaked out five times as
fast as it came in, then Mr Nogoe began to find his position peculiarly
unpleasant, and anything but a bed of roses. With 'fourscore odd' of
sick members yet upon the books--with five deaths and three half-deaths
unpaid--and the epidemic yet in full force, he beheld an unwholesome
December threatening a continuation of sickness and mortality, and a
balance at the banker's hardly sufficient to pay his own quarter's
salary. Again he calls his colleagues together, and states the
deplorable condition of affairs. The representatives of the five
deceased members, whom Nogoe has put off from time to time on various
ingenious pretences, having become aware of the meeting, burst in upon
their deliberations, and after an exchange of no very complimentary
remonstrances, backed by vehement demands for immediate payment, are
with difficulty induced to withdraw, while the committee enter upon the
consideration of their cases. Nogoe produces his budget, from the
examination of which it appears, that if they are paid in full, there
will remain in the hands of the bankers, to meet the demands of the
'fourscore odd' sick members, the sum of 4s. 7d. What is to be done? is
now the question. A speechification of three hours, during which every
member of the committee is heard in his turn, helps them to no other
expedient than that of a subscription for the widows, and a renewed
agitation, by means of the press and the bill-sticker, to re-establish
the funds by the collection of fresh fees and entrance-money. The
subscription, the charge of which is confided to a deputy, authorised to
collect voluntary donations from the various lodges about town, turns
out a failure: the widows, who want their ten pounds each, disgusted at
the offer of a few shillings, flock in a body to the nearest sitting
magistrate, and clamorously lay their case before his worship, who
gravely informs them, that the Charitable Chums' Benefit Society being
duly enrolled according to Act of Parliament, he can render them no
assistance, as he is not authorised to interfere with their proceedings.

In the face of this exposure, the agitation for cramming the society
down the throats of the public goes on more desperately than ever. By
this means, Mr Nogoe manages to hold on till Christmas, and then
pocketing his salary, resigns his office in favour of Mr Dunderhead, who
has hitherto figured as honorary Vice-Something, and who enters upon
office with a gravity becoming the occasion. Under his management,
affairs are soon brought to a stand-still. Notwithstanding his profound
faith in the capabilities of the Charitable Chums, and his settled
conviction that their immense body must embrace the elements of
stability, his whole course is but one rapid descent down to the verge,
and headlong over the precipice, of bankruptcy. The dismal announcement
of 'no effects,' first breathed in dolorous confidence at the bedsides
of the sick, soon takes wind. All the C.C.s in London are aghast and
indignant at the news; and the 'Mother Bunch' is nightly assailed by
tumultuous crowds of angry members, clamorous for justice and
restitution. The good lady who hangs over the doorway, in nowise abashed
at the multitude, receives them all with open arms. Indignation is as
thirsty as jollity, and to their thirst at least she can administer, if
she cannot repair their wrongs. Nogoe has vanished from the locality of
the now thriving inn and tavern of his friend Mr Peter Bowley, and in
the character of a scapegoat, is gone forth to what point of the compass
nobody exactly knows. The last account of him is, that he had gone to
the Isle of Man, where he endeavoured to get up a railway on the
Exhaustive Principle, but without effect. As for that excellent
individual, Bowley, he appears among the diddled and disconsolate Chums
in the character of a martyr to their interests. A long arrear of rent
is due to him, as well as a lengthy bill for refreshments to the various
committees, for which he might, if he chose, attach the properties in
his keeping. He scorns such an ungentlemanly act, and freely gives them
up; but as nobody knows what to do with them, as, if they were sold,
they would not yield a farthing each to the host of members, they remain
rolled up in his garret, and are likely to remain till they rot, the
sole memorials of a past glory.

The Charitable Chums' Benefit Society has fulfilled its destiny, and
answered the end of its creation. It has made the world acquainted with
the undeniable merits of 'Mother Bunch,' and encircled that modest
matron with a host of bibulous and admiring votaries; it has elevated
Bowley from the class of struggling and desponding speculators, to a
substantial and influential member of the Licensed Victuallers' Company:
it has at once vastly improved the colour of his nose and the aspect of
his bank-account; and while he complacently fingers the cash which it
has caused to flow in a continual current into his pocket, he looks
remarkably well in the character of chief mourner over its untimely
fate.




LA ROSIÈRE.


About twelve miles from Paris is situated the pretty vernal hamlet of
Maisons Lafitte. It hangs around the Château Lafitte--a princely
residence, formerly the property and dwelling of the well-known banker
of that name, but for many years past in other hands. In front of the
château, a broad avenue of greensward strikes straight away through a
thick forest, extending many miles across the country; and parallel with
the front of the building is an avenue still broader, but not so
long--La Grande Allée--wherein the various _fêtes_ of the hamlet are
celebrated, and which, moreover, forms a principal scene in the
following narrative.

Before the Revolution of 1793, the name of Gostillon was familiar as a
daily proverb to the people of Maisons. There were three or four
branches of the family living in the neighbourhood, and well known as
industrious and respectable members of the peasant class. When the
earthquake comes, however, the cottage is as much imperiled as the
palace; so the events which brought Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette to
the block, and sent panic into every court in Europe, also broke up and
dispersed the humble house of Gostillon. In the awful confusion of the
times, some were slain upon barricades; some sent hither and thither
with the army, to perish in La Vendée or elsewhere; and some fled to
seek safety and peace in foreign lands. Thus it came to pass, that at
length there were only three females in Maisons--a widow and her two
daughters--bearing the once common name. Mme Veuve Gostillon managed to
obtain a living by cultivating a small garden--the flowers and fruit
from which she sold in the markets of Paris--and by plying her needle.
Her daughters were named Julia and Cecilia, and there was the somewhat
remarkable difference of eight years between their ages.

Just as Julia had reached her fourteenth year, and little Cecilia her
sixth, a terrible misfortune happened to the industrious widow: a stroke
of paralysis deprived her of the use of her limbs, and rendered her
unable longer to maintain herself and little family by the labour of her
hands. A time of severe distress ensued for this remnant of the once
numerous and hearty family of the Gostillons; but it was only for
awhile. Julia--shrewd, spirited, and industrious--worked night and day
to perform the labour heretofore the portion of her parent, and to
liquidate the extraordinary expenses of the poor widow's sad illness,
and the derangement consequent thereupon. Steady assiduity seldom fails
of success. It was not long before she had the satisfaction of finding
matters proceeding in a somewhat straightforward manner--doctor's bills
paid; arrears of rent, such as they were, made up; and the little
business in flowers, fruit, and needle-work proceeding smoothly and
satisfactorily. There is much attractiveness in the virtue and
good-behaviour of youth; and Julia, handsome, intelligent, modest, and
sweet-tempered, soon became the favourite of all who knew her.

The peasantry of France have, from ancient times, maintained the custom
of publicly demonstrating their esteem of any young female member of a
community, who, in her progress from childhood to adolescence, or rather
to womanhood, may have given evidence of the possession of any unusual
amount of amiability and cleverness. Young girls who are deemed worthy
of public recognition as examples of virtue and industry, are waited
upon by the villagers on a fête-day, led forth, seated on a throne of
flowers, crowned with roses, blessed by the _curé_, and presented with
the honourable title of _La Rosière_. The custom is graceful and
poetical; and the world hardly presents a more charming spectacle--at
once so simple and so touching--as the installation of a _rosière_ in
some sequestered village of France. The associations connected with it
are pure and bright enough for a Golden Age. All who take part in the
little ceremony are humble people, living by their labour; the queen of
the day is queen by reason of her industry and virtue; they who do her
such becoming and encouraging homage, old and young, lead lowly and
toilsome lives, and yet have the innate grace thus to evince their
reverence for the best qualities of human nature. The pageantry of
courts, and pompous crowning of kings and queens, grand and splendid as
they are, have not such spiritual fragrance as these village
queen-makings; soft glimmerings and shinings-through of the light of a
better world--a world with which man, let conventionality disguise him
as it may, always has some sympathies.

For three years, the exemplary Julia had continued to support her
helpless parent and little sister, when, in accordance with this custom,
the good folks of the hamlet determined to shew their appreciation of
her estimable qualities at the next fête, by crowning her with roses,
and enthroning her with the usual ceremony in the Grande Allée. In the
meantime, Victor Colonne, son of the steward of the château, happened to
pay a visit to the poor widow's cottage; and thereafter he came again,
and again, and again, courting Julia Gostillon.

But Victor and Julia were not made for each other. He was thriftless,
idle, dissolute--the small _roué_ of the neighbourhood: she was careful,
industrious, virtuous. He was good-looking--of a dark, saturnine beauty,
insidiously impressive, like the dangerous charms of a tempter; she was
radiant and lustrous with the sweet graces of modesty, innocence, and
intelligence. Julia, however, young and susceptible, was for a time
pleased with his attentions. Persuasive powers of considerable potency,
and personal attractions of no mean sort, were not exerted and
prostrated at her feet entirely in vain. Ingenuous, trustful, and
inexperienced, she listened to the charmer with a yielding and delighted
ear, and was happy as long as she perceived nothing but sincerity and
love. It was but for a time, however. The Widow Gostillon liked not her
daughter's lover. Of more mature perception, of sharper skill in reading
character than her child, she conceived a deep distrust of the airy
smile and studied gallantry of Victor Colonne. She took counsel with
matrons old and circumspect as herself; made herself acquainted with
Victor's history; watched his looks, listened to his words narrowly and
scrutinisingly; and, day by day, felt more and more strongly that she
liked him not--that there was mischief in his restless eye and soft
musical voice. She communicated her fears to Julia, told her the history
of her suitor, and bade her be on her guard. Julia was startled and
distressed. These suspicions checked the brightness and little glory of
her life, and settled wanly and hazily on her soul, like damp breath on
a mirror. But they served as points of departure for daily thoughts.
Looks and words were watched, and weighed, and pondered over with
wistful studiousness; and while Victor believed his conquest to be
achieved, his increasing assurance and gradual abandonment of disguise
were alienating him from the object of his pursuit. Julia had
accompanied him on different occasions to the château; been presented to
his father; and had been seen, admired, and kindly spoken to by the
Comtesse Meurien and her daughters. Victor had lost no opportunity of
strengthening his suit by stimulating her ambition and pride; but it was
without avail. Though pleased for a time, she soon discovered that he
was cold, heartless, and even dissolute. The intimacy betwixt them was
fast relapsing into indifference, and, on her side, into dislike, when a
certain _dénouement_ of Master Victor's notorious love-makings,
accompanied by disgraceful circumstances, determined her to put an end
to it, once and for all.

'So you are determined?' exclaimed he with ill-restrained anger, as she
repeated her resolve to him for the fourth or fifth time.

'Yes: I will have nothing more to say to you,' replied she firmly.

'Then my father and his reverence the curé may lose all hopes of me!'
returned he bitterly. 'I have done much ill--I own it: I have won no
one's esteem: I have been idle, irregular, profligate. But wherefore?
Because I have had no one to care for me. Since my mother died, I have
been left to myself, with no kind hand to guide me, no kind tongue to
warn me: what wonder that youth should go astray?'

'No one to care for you!' exclaimed Julia, not without a tinge of
sarcasm. 'Do not your father and monsieur the curé do their utmost for
you?'

'The one reproves, and the other prays for me,' said Victor, with a
derisive smile; then turning to Julia, with a face in which penitence,
respect, and affection were well simulated, he exclaimed: 'but thou,
dear Julia, art the sovereign of my soul! in whose hand my fate is
placed. It is for you to shape my destiny: will you award me love or
perdition? At your bidding, no honourable deed shall be too high to mark
my obedience.'

'Then return to Marie Buren, and redeem the promise you made her,'
exclaimed Julia warmly.

'Nay, sweet Julia, if my priestess bids me turn away from heaven, I am
justified in protesting. Hope is the spring whence good and great works
flow. Bid me despair, and you bid me seek ruin.'

'Pooh! pooh!' exclaimed the young girl with contempt. 'I am plain Julia
Gostillon, who loves frankness and honour. You have neither one nor
other, and so I love you not; and again and again I repeat it, I will
have nothing more to say to you.'

Though the persevering Victor continued the colloquy, and exerted
himself to the utmost, sparing neither vows nor tears, Julia remained
firm. At last, seeing that his case was hopeless, he changed his tone
into one of sorrowful resignation--declared that honest frankness was a
great virtue, and that it was well they had discovered that their
affection was not reciprocal; and, in conclusion, begged the wearied
Julia to accompany him that night to the château for the last time, for
the purpose of explaining to his father, who might otherwise be troubled
with suspicions, that their courtship was broken off by mutual consent.
After much persuasion, Julia consented, and accordingly paid her last
visit to the château that same evening.

A few days after this occurrence, the 15th of June arrived, the day of
the fête. On the preceding evening, unknown to the good Julia, a score
of light-hearted girls were weaving garlands of flowers, and preparing
the crown of roses, in the house of neighbour Morelle; in that of
neighbour Bontemps another gay party were industriously ornamenting a
wooden throne with coverings, hangings, and cushions of
brightest-coloured flowers; and half the people of the hamlet were
thinking of Julia, and preparing bouquets, pincushions, caps, and
various little trifles, to present to her on the morrow.

In due course the morrow came. The summer sun had not risen many hours,
when troops of bright-eyed girls, lustrous with rosy cheeks, braided
hair, snow-white gowns, and streaming ribbons, went, tripping beneath
the trees, towards the cottage of Widow Gostillon. After them came bands
of youths and boys, and anon men and matrons, and the elders of the
place, till nearly all the little community was gathered round the
house. Early as it was, Julia had risen, and was at work. She had had
her own pleasant anticipations of the fête--though she had not heard
that a _rosière_ was to be crowned, much less that the honour was in
store for herself--and had intended, by commencing some hours earlier
than usual, to have done her work so much the sooner, that she might
share the pleasures of the festal day. But all thoughts of work were
quickly banished by her eager visitors, who, touched even by the fact,
that they had found her busy at the time when all were holiday-making,
embraced her, praised her, bade her prepare for coronation, wept,
laughed, chatted, clapped their hands, jumped, danced, and made such a
bustle, that Widow Gostillon, in some consternation, cried out from her
chamber to know what was the matter. And the poor widow wept, too, when
she discovered what was going on--wept solemnly in thinking over Julia's
fidelity to herself, her industry, cleverness, self-denial, sweetness,
and, as a proud mother might, of her beauty. And presently the
neighbours brought forth the poor invalid in her chair, and placed her
on a pleasant spot beneath the trees, whence she might behold the
installation. Then Julia retired with those appointed to be her
attendants--her tiring-women, the ladies of her court; and when, some
time after, she came forth, blushing and trembling, and with happy tears
upon her face, wearing her simple holiday dress of white muslin,
ornamented, in charming style, with wreaths of roses, the cries of 'Vive
la rosière!' might have been heard a long way off.

A little while, and sounds of music and of many voices filled the Grande
Allée. The long rows of booths and marquées, dancing-rooms, gymnasiums,
toy-tables, _bonbon_ tables, fruit-stalls, &c. &c. were surrounded by
busy crowds: all was activity and cheerfulness. In a large open space in
the midst, a short distance from the front of the château, the flowery
throne, gorgeous in variety and vividness of colours, was set up on a
dais on the greensward. The band of celebrants, with Julia and her train
in their midst, advanced. Little Cecilia walked by her sister's side,
hand in hand, in proud surprise. Before them, an aged peasant marched
solemnly, bareheaded save for his silver hair, carrying the crown
destined for Julia; and with him, also bareheaded, the curé. A
benediction, accompanied by a prayer that the metaphorical ceremony
might have some influence in attracting the youthful people present to
the practice and pursuit of virtue, having been uttered by the priest,
Julia was handed to the throne, and the crown of roses was placed upon
her head by the white-haired veteran. A sweet chorus was then
chanted--_Vive, vive la rosière_!--in the melodious verses of which the
signification of the ceremonial and the praises of the fête-queen were
recited.

Thus far matters had proceeded happily, when the attention of the gay
party was attracted by the apparition of a commissaire of police, who,
marching up with the aspect of a man having important and disagreeable
business to perform, exclaimed: '_Eh, bien!_ we are merry to-day! Accept
my best wishes for your enjoyment. Can you tell me, friends, where I am
likely to find a fair _demoiselle_--one Julia, daughter of Mme Veuve
Gostillon?'

'_Voila_, monsieur!' cried several, much surprised. 'Our _rosière_ is
she!'

'Ah, what a fate is mine!' muttered the worthy commissaire, much
affected, as he looked at the beautiful and rose-wreathed Julia. 'If I
had ten thousand francs, I would give them all to be spared this work:
but duty is duty. Courage! all may yet be well. Friends,' continued he,
raising his voice, 'excuse me if I interrupt you some few minutes. I
would not do it were I not bound to. It will be necessary for Mlle
Julia to accompany me to her home. I trust we shall not be absent long.'
He raised his cap, offered his arm; and Julia, amazed and frightened,
descended from her throne, and conducted him to the cottage.

'Pardon, mademoiselle,' said he, when they stood inside; 'I am
instructed to search this house.' Julia, puzzled, confounded, bowed
assent.

The commissaire proceeded, with a hasty hand, as if he wished to get the
work quickly over, to ransack drawers and boxes. Whenever one or the
other had been searched in vain, he clapped his hand to his breast and
muttered: 'God be thanked!' and appeared as if his mind were in some
measure relieved of a burden which oppressed it. At length he arrived at
Julia's chamber--here, as elsewhere, drawers and boxes seemed to present
no signs of the object sought for: the thanksgivings of the commissaire
were frequent; his cheerfulness appeared to be returning. Presently,
however, he proceeded to turn out the contents of Julia's little
reticule-basket: first came a pocket-handkerchief, on the corners of
which flowers had been wrought by Julia's needle. 'Very pretty!'
remarked the commissaire. Then appeared a number of slips of rare
plants, recently collected. 'Ah! you are a botanist?' said the
commissaire.

'They are from the conservatory of the Comte Meurien, at the château: I
meant to have planted them to-day,' said Julia.

'Who gave them to you?'

'Mme Lavine, the _femme de chambre_.'

'Ah, _diable_! I hope you have nothing else from that château?'

'I have nothing else,' replied Julia, blushing, and somewhat
discomposed, as she remembered Victor.

'What is the matter?--why are you agitated?' demanded the commissaire,
regarding her fixedly.

'It is nothing,' said poor Julia, much distressed by his stern and
scrutinising look.

'Nothing? I fear it is something! Alas! I begin to lose hope.'

'Hope of what?' asked Julia wonderingly.

'Of your innocence!' replied the commissaire sternly.

'Mon Dieu! What do you mean?'

'Ah, restez tranquille, pauvre demoiselle; nous verrons toute-suite.'
And with a shrug, he continued his investigation of the contents of the
reticule-basket. It contained a great variety of little knick-knacks,
which, with much patience, the commissaire turned out and examined, one
by one. At length he came to a little parcel, the paper-envelope of
which appeared to be part of an old letter, and was thickly covered with
writing. It was one of Victor's letters. Julia blushed again.

'What have we here?' demanded the constable.

'I forget what there is inside,' said Julia. 'I hardly knew it was
there.'

'Let us see.'

He opened two or three wrappers--the portion of the letter formed the
outside one, the others being blank white paper--and there fell out,
descending upon the table with a sharp jingle, a pair of gold bracelets,
ornamented with pearls and turquoises, a superb coral necklace, and a
diamond ring.

'Mademoiselle!' exclaimed the commissaire, whose face appeared to lose
all flexibility of expression the moment the discovery was made,
presenting now merely the stern, impassible, mechanical look of an
officer on duty, 'these are the identical articles for which I have been
searching for the last three days. Will you be good enough to change
your dress as quickly as possible, and prepare to accompany me to the
office of M. Morelle, magistrate of this district?'

At this juncture, the Widow Gostillon was conveyed back to her cottage
by some of her neighbours, with little Cecilia by her side. Entering
Julia's chamber, her young friends found her in a swoon, from which the
commissaire was assiduously endeavouring to recover her. A scene of a
most painful character ensued. Without afflicting the reader with a
recital of the agonised and indignant protestations of Julia--the anger
and affright of Widow Gostillon--the sorrow, sympathy, and amazement of
the villagers--suffice it to say, that the commissaire, in the course of
the morning, conducted Julia into the presence of the magistrate.

It appears that the articles of bijouterie found in Julia's reticule had
been missed from the chamber of Mlle Antoinette Meurien the very
morning after Julia visited Victor's father at the château. The young
lady had seen them on her toilette early the preceding evening, and had
not worn them for some days, so that she could not have lost them whilst
walking or riding. It was evident they had been abstracted. A search was
instantly commenced. The domestics were examined, and their rooms and
boxes searched, but without either finding the property or fixing
suspicion on any one of them. The police were then apprised of the
robbery. The servants of the household underwent a second and official
examination, but all earnestly declared their innocence. It being
ascertained, however, that Julia had visited the house the night on
which the property was lost, an order was issued, commanding that her
residence be searched, and that she be brought before the authorities.
Among the witnesses who proved Julia's visit to the château was Victor
Colonne.



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Library mainpage -> Chambers, William -> Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 427 Volume 17, New Series, March 6, 1852