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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


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Online LibraryVariousChambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 427 Volume 17, New Series, March 6, 1852 → online text (page 1 of 5)