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THE HISTORY OF A FRENCH ARTIZAN DURING THE LAST
[This article is from a Magazine, the conductors of which have exhibited strong symptoms of dislike at the late events in France; and it is probably published by them to excite, through the sympathies of its readers, the same unfriendly feeling. We of course give it a place in our for no such purpose as this. pages Whether the incidents mentioned in it are real or fictitious, it is doubtless a true picture of many a scene of individual suffering during the "three glorious days;" and though as Republicans we must rejoice that the Sun of Liberty has shone upon regenerated France, as Men we cannot but feel for the distresses of those heroic individuals who prepared the way for the "brightness of his coming" and the enjoyment of his cheering influence.]
studying, and make me a clergyman like himself.
My ambition was flattered with the prospect; and during my early years, the dream of my future honors was always before me; but, as I and learnt to dance upon grew up the with the girls of the vilgreen lage, my sentiments insensibly changed. I began to think of leaving off dancing, and being grave, and serious, and never marryingcach with an augmented degree of horror. The decisive blow, however, was struck, when I had seen three times Mariette Dupont. We were both as young as we well could be to fall in love; but she was so beautiful, and her soft dark eyes looked so imploringly into I was born in the beautiful valley one's heart, that from the very first of the Seine, near the small town of moment I saw her, I felt an inclinaBonnières. It is a lovely place, tion to put my arm round her, and and I will say no more of it; for in say, "Thou shalt be my own; and sitting down to write all the mise- I will guard thee from sorrow, and ries and horrors that have visited care, and adversity; and shelter me since I left it, the fair calm spot thee from every blast that blows in of my birth, and the sweet peaceful the bleak cold world around." But scenes of my boyhood, rise up like on this I must not pause either, for the reproachful spirit of a noble pa- the memory of such dreams is bitrent before a criminal son, and up- terness. The matter went on-I braid me for having ever quitted loved Mariette, and she Ay ! my tranquil home. My father, that joy is at least my own-lasting though but the gardener at the cha- imperishable, and the annihilation teau, was also a small propriétaire; of a world could not take it from and, in his spare time, used to cul- me- -She loved me-deeply, trutivate his own fields by the banks ly, devotedly-through life-to the of the river. The chateau had tomb ! been purchased by Mons. Vthe rich bookseller in Paris; and in hanging about the house while a child, I became a great favorite with the good Parisian. Still my principal patron was Monsieur le Curé of Bonnières, who discovered in me an amazing genius for my catechism, taught me to read and write, gave me a smattering of Latin, and declared, that if I took pains and behaved well, he and Monsieur V between them, would procure me the means of
Years flew by; and we were married; for my father had never liked the thought of my becoming a priest, which he looked upon as being buried alive. He said I should do much better to labor as my ancestors had done; or, since I had a superior education, could read and write, and understood Latin, I might easily make my fortune in Paris. So he willingly gave his consent to my marriage with Mariette. Monsieur V, the bookseller, said it was always right to
let fools have their own way; and the Curé frowned and united us, merely observing, that he had bestowed his time and attention very much in vain.
By my father's counsel, we determined to go to Paris immediately, for he and my brother were both sure that I should there become a great man, and Mariette had no doubt of it. Besides," my father said, "if you do not get on there, you can come back here, and help to take care of our own ground, while I work at the chateau."
To Paris we went, and took a small lodging in the Faubourg Poissonniere, where, for two or three weeks, Mariette and myself spent our time and our money in love and amusement. We were not extravagant, but we were thoughtless; and surely a three-week's thoughtlessness was but a fair portion for such happiness as we enjoyed. At length I began to think of seeking something to do; and I had sufficient self-confidence to fancy I could even write in a newspaper. Forth I went to propose myself; and Mariette's eyes told me how high were her anticipations of my success. To the proprietors of the Constitutionnel, my first application was made; but the gentleman I saw bent his ear to catch my provincial jargon-looked at me from head to foot-told me I was dreaming; and turned upon his heel. How I got out of the house, I know not; but when I found myself in the street, my head swam round, and my heart swelled with mingled indignation, shame, and disappoint
It required no small effort to force myself to enter the office of the National, which was the next I tried. There I mentioned my pretensions, in a humbler tone, and only proposed that something from my pen might be received as an experiment. The clerk to whom I spoke bore my message into an inner room, and returned with a calm, business-like face, to inform me that 40 ATHENEUM, VOL. 5, 3d series.
all departments were full. This had occupied me the whole morning; and I now returned to Mariette, who instantly read my mortification in my countenance. She asked no questions, but only cast her arms round my neck, and with a smile, which was not gay, though it was not desponding, she whispered, "Do not be vexed, Frank. They cannot know yet how clever you are. When they see more of you, they will be glad enough to have you. Besides, we can go back again to Bonnières."
The thought of returning unsuccessful to my own home, was not what I could endure. I imagined the cold eye of the curate; and the disappointment and surprise of my father and brother; and the jeers and the wonder of the whole village; and I determined to do anything rather than go back to Bonnières. The landlord of our lodgings was a tinman, a great politician, and a literary man. All his information, however, was gathered from a paper called the Globe, which he cited on every occasion. To the office of the Globe, then, I went, after dinner; and, having taken a couple of turns before the door, to gather resolution, I went in, and modestly asked when I could see the editor. One of the young men in the office answered that Monsieur then in the house, and ushered me into another room. Here I found a gentleman writing, who looked up with a pleasant and intelligent expression, and pointing to a seat, asked my business.
affecting the whole of France. I mean the undue proportion between the number of the population and the quantity of employment. Where the fault lies, I must not presume to say, but that there must be a great fault somewhere is evident; otherwise every man who is willing to labor, would find occupation."
It has struck me since, that there must often be causes for want of employment, which no government could either control or remedy; but, at the time, his reasoning seemed excellent; and all I felt was renewed disappointment, and a touch of despair, which I believe showed itself very plainly in my face, for the editor began to ask me some farther questions which soon led me to tell him my precise situation.
He mused and seemed interested; but for a moment replied nothing. At length, looking at me with a smile, he said, "Perhaps, what I am about to propose to you, may be very inferior to your expectations; nevertheless it will afford you some occupation."
The very name of occupation was renewed life, and I listened with eagerness, while he offered to recommend me to a printer, as what is called a reader, or corrector of the press. I embraced his proposal with unutterable thankfulness; and having ascertained that I was capable of the task, by some proof-sheets that lay upon the table, he wrote a note to Monsieur Manson, the printer, and put it into my hand. I could almost have knelt and worshiped him, so great was the change from despair to hope. With the letter in my hand, I flew to the printing-house, was tried and received; and, though the emolument held out was as small as it well could be, my walk home was with the springing step of joy and independence; and my heart, as I pressed Mariette to my bosom, and told her my success, was like that of a great general in the moment of victory, before the gloss of triumph has been tarnished by one regret
for the gone, or one calculation for the future. I was soon installed in my new post; and though what I gained was barely enough for the necessities of life, yet it sufficed; and there was always a dear warm smile in the eyes I loved best, which cheered and supported me whenever I felt inclined to despond or give way.
It is true, I often regretted that I could not procure for Mariette those comforts and those luxuries which I little valued myself; but she seemed to heed them not, and every privation appeared to her a matter of pride-to be borne rather as a joy than a care. Six months thus passed; and they were the happiest of my life, for though I labored, I labored in the sunshine. I had perfectly sufficient time, also, to make myself thoroughly acquainted with the whole art of printing, and to fit myself for the task of a compositor, which, though more mechanical, was more lucrative; and it became necessary that I should gain more, as a change was coming over Mariette which promised us new cares and new happiness. Strange, that when I looked upon her languid features, and her altered shape, she seemed to me a thousand times more lovely, than in all the fresh graces of expanding womanhood! And when fears for her safety mingled with the joy of possessing her-when her calm sweet eyes rested long and fixedly upon me, as if she strove to trace out the image of her future child in the looks of its father-a new and thrilling interest appeared to have grown up between us, which was something more than love.
At length, one of the compositors having gone to conduct a printing office at Rennes, my object was accomplished; and I obtained his vacant place. Still the emoluments were infinitely small, for the book trade was bad, and of course the printers suffered. Sometimes there was plenty of work, and sometimes there was none; and the whole of
my companions murmured highly at the government, whose imbecility and tyrannical conduct, they said, had destroyed the commerce of the country, and done everything to ruin and degrade the press. There was many a busy whisper amongst us, that nothing could save the nation but a new revolution; and as we all felt more or less the sharp tooth of want, we madly thought that no change would be detrimental to us. I doubted some of the opinions that I heard; but one of my comrades worked at the Globe, which had now become a daily paper, and he used often to give us long quotations, which convinced us all that the government was opposed to the wishes of the whole nation, and that any change must be for the better.
During the autumn, I contrived to save some little portion of my wages; but the rigor of the winter, and the quantity of wood we were obliged to burn, soon consumed all that I had laid by; so that the provision for Mariette's confinement became a matter of serious and dreadful anxiety. One morning, however, I received a letter from my brother, telling me that my father had died suddenly on the preceding night. I will not rest upon all that I felt. I had always been the slave of my imagination: and it had been one of my favorite vanities to think how proud my father's heart would be to see me raise myself high in the world, and how comfortable I should be able to render his old age, when the smile of fortune should be turned upon me. But now he was dead, and those dreams all broken.
The little patch of ground which we possessed was of course divided between me and my brother; and my portion was instantly sold to provide for the occasion which was so near at hand. The depression of all property, and the haste with which I was obliged to effect the sale, rendered it the most disadvantageous that can be conceived;
and what with the expenses of Ma riette's confinement, a long illness which she underwent after, and a fit of sickness which I suffered myself-before the end of March my stock of money was reduced to fifty francs.
Work was by this time sufficient and regular, so that I could maintain myself, Mariette, and our boy. We had, indeed, no superfluity; we knew no luxury; and the external enjoyments which I saw many possessing, far less worthy than ourselves, were denied to us.
Mariette bore it all with cheerfulness, but I grew gloomy and discontented, and the continual murmurs at the government, which I heard amongst my companions, wrought upon me. I gradually began to dream that everything unpleasant in my situation was attributable to the state of society in which I lived. Every political change now seemed to irritate and affect me. Whereas, before I heard a word of politics, I used to work on with hope and activity-. encountering hardships boldly, and feeling them the less, because I did not let my mind rest upon them.-I now dwelt upon every uncomfort, and magnified it in my own eyes, for the purpose of making it a greater reproach to the government, whose evil measures, I thought, caused it. I would pause long in my work to read scraps from a newspaper, and to comment on the folly and tyranny of our rulers; and thus I met several reproofs for my slowness and negligence. The fires in Normandy I heard of with indignation and horror, and I attributed them all to the ministers, whose wickedness I thought was capable of any baseness, till one day I heard one of my republican companions observe, that the incendiaries were very much in the right, to burn down the barns and destroy the grain, as by making the great mass of the people as miserable and penny less as themselves, they would force them to bring about a revolu
tion, which would set all things to rights. Besides, he asked, what right had a rich man to corn, when the poor were starving?
The elections for the chamber of deputies was another great source of anxiety to me; and when I found they were all liberal, I felt nearly as much satisfaction as if I had been elected myself. At length the meeting of the chambers approached; and many a warm discussion took place amongst the journeymen printers, on the questions likely to be brought under consideration. Every one said that the ministers must go out, or dissolve the chambers; and many observed, with a shrewd glance, that neither the dissolution of the chambers, nor the resignation of the ministers, would satisfy the people. "We must have a change," they said "a complete change;" and several began to talk boldly of revolution.
The continual irritation and discontent I felt, had their effect on my countenance; and Mariette grow anxious about me. She did all she could to soothe me-sat with her arms round my neck, and endeavored to persuade me that I should be happier if I did not think of politics. Kings and governments," she said, and said truly, "could only provide for the general good; and that there must always be many in every country whose fate destined them to labor and live hard. She could not but think," she added, "that the way to be happy, was for every one to try, by his own exertions, to improve his own condition; and neither to envy his neighbor nor to meddle with affairs in which he was not well practised." She sought to induce me, too, to return to Bonnières. We had never been so happy since we left it; and so sweetly, so perseveringly did she urge a request which I saw was made for my sake more than her own, that at length I consented to go, and, quitting all the vain dreams which had led me to Paris, to reassume the class and occupation of my fathers.
We had not money to go by the Diligence; but we were both good walkers; and the baby, being brought up by hand-and that upon the simplest food-would prove but little encumbrance.
This determination was taken on Sunday the 25th of July, and the next day I gave my employer notice that, at the end of the month, I should quit him. In the meantime we determined to save every sous that was possible, in order to provide for our expenses by the way; for which we had hitherto made no reserve. On the Monday following, I joined the rest of the printers, and we worked through the day in tranquillity. At night, however, as I was returning over the Pontneuf, I met one of my companions, who grasped my hand, asking, with a look of intense eagerness, "If I had heard the news?" The suddenness of the question, and his look of anxiety, alarmed me. I knew not well what I dreaded, but at all events, my fears were all personal. His tale soon relieved me of my apprehensions for Mariette and our child; but raised my indignation to the highest pitch against the government. The king, he told me, had violated the charter, struck at the liberty of the press, altered the law of election, and reduced the people to a nation of slaves.
Distant shouts met our ears as we were crossing the Rue St Honoré; and hurrying on in the direction from which they proceeded, we came upon an immense multitude, who were breaking the lamps, and yelling execrations against the government.
I was well enough inclined to join them; but remembering Mariette, I returned home, and told her all that had occurred. As I spoke, a paleness came over her beautiful face, so universal, so ghastly, that it made me start. It seemed as if some warning voice had told her that every happy dream was at an end-that the eternal barrier had fallen between us and joy forever.