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CHAPTER I.

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CHAPTER I. A CLUE TO CHARACTER. A BIAZING August afternoon. The sun beat fiercely down upon the pavement of such London Courts a gave it access, was caught up and reflected by thf hot brick walls on either side, and vanished in a jjiistv haze of dancing motes and beams. The heat was so intense, that three clerks, seated at the sloping desk which occupied the centre of a certain City counting-house, with one accord laid down their pens, wiped their reeking faces, and gasped for breath. And well they m'ght; for Augustine Close, albeit it has its trees and garden views from some of the upper office windows, is sinuous, contracted, and Shut in by gates—silent and breathless, even in the nooks where the fiercest winds which descend so low expend their power in whirling round a few dry leaves, odd paper scraps, and vagrant straws; em- blems of its old life these, when many a seared and withered soul from the outer world sought refuge here, and spent its remnant of existence in a daily round of monotonous duties. For a Priory of Augustine friars once occupied the Close, founded in the year that the great Khan was said to have been converted, that the Alhambra was commenced, that Sicily was offered to Richard of Cornwall, and that Henry III. intrigued for it for his son Edmund, after allowing Grosteste and the parliament to snub the Pope. Three hundred years alterwardsthechurch resounds with Dutch and Walloon voices, and is called the temple of the Lord Jesus, while the friars' garden belongs to the Company of Drapers. Turn the kaleidoscope of time another three hundred years. The glass house of the Venetians has gone, where James Howel says he melted away under their fierce fires. ThehouseoftheSpanish Ambassador, who praised the City gormandiser, but told his master English houses were but sticks and dirt, is razed. The clish-clash of the tanners, who ga/.ed out on the London Wall, and felt convinced there was "nothing like leather," is silent. b Augustine Close is still a hot place, and a quiet, even although a miniature Babel of merchants of all nations swarms under its archways daily as the clock Strikes ten. It is especially quiet on Sundays, when you might think it a nook of some city of the dead, for few come to hear the Dutch doctor preach, and pone but housekeepers dream of dwelling there. The firm of Fabian van Flewker and Company, General Merchants, Commission Agents, and Foreign Bankers, occupied the three rooms forming the ground floor of No. 99, in the Close. The back of the house looked into the Draper's garden, aforetime my Lord Cromwell's. The office proper consisted of two 3nly of these apartments, the third hind-most chamber Oeing the principal's private room. This sanctum was entered by a rather long, dark, winding passage, out 3f which opened the safe-room, a dungeon with an iron door—believed to be the repository of fabulous wealth. Although the legend upon the door-post at the entrance gave the name of Fabian van Flewker and Company" as constituting the firm, it is only canciid to admit that the Company" was a fashion- able fiction, and the business owned by Mynheer van Flewker alone. Upon this particular sultry August afternoon, the counting-house was occupied by three clerks—Whiffles, book-keeper and cashier; Kleckser, foreign corres- pondent and -for utility. Two of the number being Britons, tllecon versation naturally turned upon the weather. The discourse was commenced by Gwillim. This young man stammered soinewfhat. Being Welsh, and of an exitable teniperament; -tlle impediment in his speech was rather increased than lessened by his eagerness to overcome it. Now you may have every possible sympathy with f, ma* w ho stutters, but it is not easy always to be orave when he speaks. (iwillimstrained occasionally it a syllable for full a minute;and, with singular ill- fortune, this usually happened when most inopportun e. Now and then, though rarely, a Cambrian accent was perceptible in his talk. « Did you ever hear of the Bub-Tiub-P.ubbl-BIack Hole at Ca-Ca-Ca'icrtta, Mr. Whiffles P* he asked, with longing glance t aii empty water-bottle that S" upon tin' desk. I -Ili-. It was noticeable that (iwillim and Whiffles, although daily companions, and upon the best possible terms were studiously particulartu give each other his full title upon every occasion. Likewise, that, though each was gasping with thirst, he would not, upon any account, have compromised his dignity by filling the water-bottle, from the pump in the cellar. From this menial office, each preferred awaitinif the return of the errand-bov, who had gone to tapping, and Would not be back for a coup'e of hours, at least. l, Mr. Whiffles, continued Gwillim, "it's my o-p-p-pinion that the P-P-Plack Hole at Ca-Ca- Calcutta was an ice-house to Au-gu-gu-guggl-gustine Close. I don't know about that. Sir. GwiU:m, answered Whiffles, a. hard-headfd practical young fellow, never indulging in simile or overstrained compar son. If you read the published accounts, you'll find that, of 146 prisoners, 123 were suffocated in a single night; now, I don't quite think that could have happened in an ice-house." S 11 of c-c-course not, if you st-st-stick to the sti-ict of the thing,"returned Gwillim, pettishly. But you know what I m-m-mean, Mr. Whiffles I mean that the heat is int-t-tolerable, over- powering, kick-kick-kick-killing." "Yet we live on," suggested Whiffles. Yes but how ? In a T-T-Tit-Turkish bath. I declare, it can't be w-w-worse in India than here. T-t-talk of t-t-tropical countries If a man lives in the tropics, he gets ac-kick-climat-ised, and don't mind heat: besides, he has p-p-pun-punkahs, and ther-ther-thermant:dotes, and all that sort of thing. But our c-c-climate is about the most variable under the sun.or under tbe cu-cli-clouds, to speak correctly. Three m-tr.-months of the year we're roasted," ,t-t:two frozen,, and the other seven d-d-dr6wned; Heigho! When will that young gc-sc-sc-scamp come in ?" The scamp, Bill Pordv, the errand-boy, was at that precise moment luxuriating under a. pump at Mile End. Had Gwillim known it, there would have been wailing on Pordy's return. Well, ignorance is I often bliss. -w-) Printingoi every Description n'as isf cfes T/eAitscKm T^ter'mC 7' (" "7iat is the German's Fatherland ?") at this moment struck in Kleckser, a round-faced, chubby young German, with a straw-coloured moustache, spectacles, and no whiskers. Gvillim, my poy, ton't pe unhabby. Tink of the ship's carbencer, who says everyting vill be all de same 19,761 years hence." "Hang the kick;kick-carpenter, Mr. Kleckser!" exclaimed the irritated Gwillim. That's st-st-stu- upid theory's no comfort to me. There's that Pordy, too. been gone more than an hour, and it's quite t-t-time he was back again to get some water." I i,rdn- has been away just twenty minutes, Mr. Gwili' stated precise Whiffles. Chap 1 I Gwillim! He shall tie of his dirst!" laughed Kleckser. "Give me de pottle, my poy, and I'll fetch de vater. I to pelieve you chaps vould sooner pe roasted to teath, like dat King of Spain vhat tumpled into de fire and might'nt pe bulled out py his grantees, sooner dan lose an inch of your plessed tignity. Give me de pottle." (i williiii remonstrated faintly, for the prospect of crater was too grateful to be rejected. Kleckser r-eixed the bottle, and swinging himseif from his stool, was dancing out of the door singing, when he came full butt in the entrance against a gentleman of so much importance in my story, that he deserves a fresh paragraph. Enter M. Napoleon-Victoire Parlandet, whom, though introduction has gone out of fashion, I yet rake leave to present with some formality. A portly personage, above the middle height, with dark eyes, flattish, common-place features, and a magnificent coal-black, spade beard. Altogether, an imposing- looking gentleman, with a thick watch-guard meandering over his waistcoat, and many shining rings upon his fleshy fingers. His position in the house of Fabian dan Flewker and Company will develop itself as we proceed. Good morning, my children," exclaimed M. Parlandet, with one arm in air, and the other clasp- ing the astonished Kleckser to his manly breast. Signor Kleckser, do not knock me down with youi formidable bottle, and tr-rrrr-rample upon my life- less corpse. Aha!" Chap 1 It was a peculiarity of M. Parlandet to terminate his little speeches with this interjection, when h( thought he had said anything witty or telling. A< these times his false white teeth would glisten out of his black beard in a manner he considered peculiarly fascinating; others might, perhaps, have thought so, too. There is no accounting for tastes, either good or bad. Chap 1 Pardon, M. Parlandet," said Kleckser, emerging, bottle in hand, from the voluminous folds of the new-comer's waistcoat. I tit not see you vere coming." My son, your excuses are accepted," returned M. Parlandet, with a gracious wave of the hand. "M. van Flewker, then, is not yet upon his return, eh?" Not yet, M. Parlandet," returned Whiffles. Do you know when he is expected?" I did receive of his news this morning, my dear Mr. Chancellor," said M. Parlandet, and did think to encounter him already here. No matter! He shall speedily, without doubt, make his apparation. But what is of the most interesting to me, I would ask if you could oblige with some leetle of the needful on account." Certainly, M. Parlandet," said the cashier. How much do you require ?" M. Parlandet named the amount of his pecuniary desires, and, after a small passage of arms about the state of his account with re cher chancelicrr" as he styled Whiffles, gracefully withdrew. There he goes again," said Whiffles. Money— money--money is always his cry. I do believe he fancies Mr. van Flewker only keeps up the business to find him in cash." "He does get through his sa-sa-sal-salary amaz- ingly fast," observed Gwillim. "And though it may seem uric, to say so, Pari really ap- pears to me more ornamental than useful. There he is all d-d-dav at the West End office, a place fit for a p-p-pup-prince. and the quantity of b-b-business he brings in a year you mighr, put upon a page of note- paper. When he does introduce a c-c-cus-customer, there's generally something wrong about, him. D-d-do you really think Mr. Whiffles, he's worth what the g-g-gov-governor gives hin) Worth it. ejaculated WI li flIes, with intense scorn. He's net Nv(ll.ti I A glasOi of vater on a hot tay, my poy," interrupted Kleckser, presenting that refreshment to < J willim, who seized it eagerly. L is vort all de Parlandets dat ever came from France." "So it is, Mr. Kleckser," said Whiffles. "Butwhat's to be done ? Mr. van Flewker has confidence in Parl, and will continue to a"ve it, I s'pose, till the end o'the chapter." 's./s/ oindt nicht otter Tage abend* my poy," re- turned Kleckser, significantly. "Vhich, peing inter- preted for intivituals like you, vhat ton't unterstand de p<ps of de German language, means, De tay iSii t, ;,[, cod until de evening.' It's my I obinion, my teal VhulJes/ Pari hasn't quite got to de ent of his tether mit de governor yet. Vhen he toes, dere'Il pe vhat's both iarly called a nimbus." I Well, I can't make it out." said Gwillim. "Mr. van F-F-Flewker otiglit to know P-P-Parl pretty well by this time. Over and over again he's led the governor into b-b-blundei s and loss, ot which I wonder he hasn' grown tired. Listen, my poy," said Kleckser, and I'll tell you just how de governor and Pari seem to me to live. No, toubt, in your exberience of life, you've seen an old married bair, who've lived in de plessed madri- monial state a goo.t numper of years, Dey ton't care apout each oder much, and vatever love dere might have peen at first has gone to de togs dey're alvays quarrelling, and atvays making it up. Hapit keeps 'em togedder. Dat's just how it is mit M. van FIewker and Parl." Very true, Mr. Kleckser," observed Whiles," but still, that's no explanation 'ow Parl gets rid of his money." I shall ten you dat, too, mine friend," replied the German, "dough I don't know noting of his hapits. I judge by vhat you English call analysis." You mean analogy, I suppose, Mr. K-K-K-Kleck- J ser," interrupted Gwillim. To pe sure," returned the correspondent. I have alvays found dat vhat a man like Parl is in leetel tin;, so vill he pe in great vons. Tit you ever know him to give anyting avay ?—a cigar to you or to me, a benny to a boor, shoeless teyil shivering in de snow ? Not a pit. Vell, den, ve have von end of de clue to Parl's character. He is not generous. Next, tit you ever know him grudge himself yon single ting to vhich he took a. fancy No matter de cost—no matter its utility. It is enough dat it bleases him for dat he Executed, at the Chronicle Office, Penarth. sfiair try~to get it. DatTIfe anoder Ijo5"dr<lecTue. Tarit is greedy and brodigal," "Upon my word, Mr. Kleckser," said Whiffles, you're quite a a philosoper. I 'ope you don't quietly analyse our characters as you're reckoning up Parl's. He's bad enough, I believe, but surely not so black as you're painting him." Stop a minute," said Kleckser, I haven't tone vid Pari yet. Ve find him ungenerous, greedy, and brodigal. You have blayed chess mit him him of even- ings, Gvillim. So have I. He blays veil, put is care- less, ton't pay addention, and often commits a fault. Tit you ever know him tecline to take pack a piece vhen his mistake was bointed out ? Toes he ever allow you to retrieve your oversight ? Not a pit. He takes all he can get, and never gives noting pack to his obbonent. Veare getting on a little furder mit de clue. Pari is mean and illiberal." Mr. Kleckser's right," interrupted Gwillim. I've n-n-noticed that feature in P-P-Pup-Parl's character myself." Goot," said Kleckser, "dat's vat counsel call cor- roporative evidence, I pelieve. Into Parl's religious obinions, or rader irreligious obinions, I shan't enter. Ve've often peen disgusted py his prutal ateism. I only mention dem now to show dat as Parl ton't pelieve in a future state his bumps of conscientious- ness and vederation must pe very small. But dere's anoder organ dat he possest in deir place, vhich I should tink must extend all over his skull, and dat is de organ of self-esteem. Even Parl's pest friend, who is M. van Flewker, vould atmit his having dis faculty most largely developed. And I ton't exbect eider of you vill teny it-eh ?" Certainly not," said Whiffles. A more important person in his own eyes than M. Parlandet I don't believe can possibly exist. Still, you know, Mr. Kleckser, a man may be all that you have stated'in his private character, and yet, in a business point of view, fairly to be depended upon." "My poy," returned the German, sententiously, dere's an immoral consistency as veil as a moral consistency. If you find a man ungenerous, selfish, im- provident, mean, greedy of advantage, and conceited, pe sure it's noting put fear of consequences vhat keeps him from going very wrong inteet. I say noting more dan that I ton't pelieve in Parl, and I hope M. van Flewker may not pe opliged to come to de same con- clusion. Now, my poy, give me some vater, for talk- ing philosophy always makes me try." People do call it a dry subject, you know, Mr. Kleckser," retorted Whiffles, with a quiet grin. Dose vhat says so ton't know not noting apout it," sputtered Kleckser, half choking himself, as some water went the wrong way, in his eagerness to refute the heresy. Gwillim and Whiffles burst into a shout of laughter, as much at the philosopher's vehemence as at his mishap, and Kleckser, after a moment's pause, chimed in with his companions. While these young fellows are laughing, I may perhaps take the opportunity of bringing you ac- quainted with mysterious Mynheer Fabian van Flewker—the shadowy personage of whom you have heard a little, but as yet have not seen. CHAPETR II. FROM DRAMA TO TRAGEDY. RATHER more than forty years ago, Fabian van Flewker was a small, many-breeched Dutch boy, who lived in a certain city in Holland called Rotterdam. The fact of his existence was in itself peculiar— indeed, according to the traditions of the Van Flewker family, he had no right to have come into the world at all; for it must be stated that the males of the house of Van Flewkerfor many generations past had invariably intermarried withtme of three families, the Van Brouns, the Van Jonahs, or Van Robinsonks. The relation of these Dutch families to three others, nearly as eminent in the British middle-class hier- archy, will be evident at a glance. When, therefore, Hendrijk van Flewker, the great shipowner and Batavian trader, found that his end was near at hand, he called to his bedside his son Jobst, a wild, harum-scarum youth, about five-and- twentv, and addressed him in the following terms :— Son Jobst, I am about to place a grave trust in thy hands. Those signs and tokens wisely given unto man, in warning that the hour of his dissolution draweth nigh, tell me only too plainly that I am not long for this world; and I am anxious, before I die, to insure thy future welfare. Thou art very young to be intrusted with the responsibility of a great business the happiness of many is committed to thy charge. I fear thou art too much given up to worldly vanities to make a prudent use of the riches I shall leave behind. Still, young as thou art, it is not well for mac to be alone, and my last counsel to thee is to look around for a prudent and thrifty helpmate. Thy choice will naturally be limited to the three families into which our home has always married, and by rare good fortune, there is a marriageable daughter at this moment in each of the families of Van Broun, Van Jonah, and Van Robinsonk. Chap 2 If thou wilt be guided by my wishes thou wilt .select as thy bride Katrina van Robinsonk. Though not comely, she will make thee an excellent and saving helpmate and further, her dowry will be larger than those of Hedwig van Jonah or Margret van Broun. Besides, the affairs of the Van Brouns are not in good order at least, one, if not more, of their bills was pro- tested last week and (lylls van Jonah was elected to the Senate in my stead, five-and-twenty years ago- a wrong I have never forgotten. Of one thing only I must warn thee. Beware of marrying any but one of these three damsels, for, if thou dost, a heavy punishment awaits thee. Confide in all things in my book-keeper, Pieter Maritzburg, who is thoroughly trustworthy, and entirely devoted to the interests of our house. And now, my son, embrace me, and farewell!" Whereupon Hendrijk van Flewker turned his face to the wall, and, with a heavy sigh, yielded up the ghost. Jobst van Flewker turned a deaf ear to all the ugly stories told in Rotterdam of the way in which his father had amassed his wealth; enough for him that it was gained, and was now his own. He held several conferences with the grey old bOok-keeper, Pieter Maritzburg, in the dingy little counting-house where generation. after generation the Van Flewkers had sat day by day, and" often late into the mght, adc*v4'g up column upon column of fine, fat,. profitable figures, and placing the total at the foot of each with a sigh of opulent delight. Together the two went out over the catalogue of Hendrijk van Flewker's property. the sh ps in dock and afloat, the I actual cash in hand, the shares in banks, canals, and in a new fangled method of conveyance, called rail- roads, then just beginning to be heard of, at. which worthy Pieter Maritzburg gravely shook