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CAUGHT AT LAST; OR, THE FELON'S BRAND. [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] CHAPTER VI.—(Continued.) After a brigf interval Anna resumed her story, though with greater difficulty than ever-for her breath began to come in feebler volume, and she often stopped for nearly a minute, and gasped as if for it. About a year ago my little Christine was born. I gave her that name after my mother, but M. Louis would not allow me to have the child baptised. What was the use of it ? he asked. Ah he was a bad man, dear lady," said Anna, answering the horrified expression in the widow's face. Nothing was holy, Or good, or sacred to him. He mocked at all I had always been taught to honour, until I sometimes felt inclined to run away and throw myself into the river. Then he would speak gently and softly, flatter and Caress me, until I forgot his wickedness, and only saw in him the father of my child. 44 Well, a fortnight before I came to this place, M. Louis told me we would go to Australia. He said be was tired of this foggy climate and the dreary people. We should soon be able to make our fortunes in Australia, and then we could come back and live in pleasant, social Germany. I was pleased with this prospect. What had I here ? Although I have been in England so long, I cannot speak the language. It is wretched to live in a land where you cannot understand what people say. Besides, M. Louis was everything to me. With him I was con- tented. "So I made all my preparations for going away. The ship in which we were to sail across the ocean for many thousand miles, M. Louis told me, would depart from Liverpool. He had some last arrange- ments to make-people to see, must go a little distance in the country—all which would occupy several days. I was to come down here first with Christine, and wait for him at a place he named. That there might be no mistake, he wrote it down on the paper I showed the magistrate. Then he brought US to the station, saw us into the carriage, kissed me, embraced Christine, and we left for Liverpool. What has happened since, I think you know." The girl's voice, which had faltered as she approached the cloee of her story, failed altogether now. She was thoroughly exhausted, and fell back pale and fnint, with closed eyes, upon the pillow. The hectic fiush upon her cheeks, and the laboured heaving of her chest, as. enfeebled by the long recital, she strove for breath, alone showed that she had not already passed a way. At this moment a nurse came into the ward and whispered softly to the widow. Low as was the sound, it reached the ears of the dying girl. She unclosed her eyes, fast glazing over with the film of approaching dissolution, raised herself to a sitting posture, and stretching out her arms to the widow, called out, Askliehe Frau Main Kind Man- Kind ("Ah! dear lady! My child: my child !") Mrs. White nodded tearfully to the attendant. The woman went to the door, and came to Anna's tedside with the little Christine in her arms, Was this the infant that had so horrified the magistrate in the police-court a month ago ?—this plump and smiling rosy cherub, whose dimpled cheeks glowed with the hues of health and vigour and whose little limbs seemed almost bursting from the garments which they wore ? Good food, kind care, and bounteous nature had worked the miracle. chap 6 As the infant was brought near, Anna gazed at it with starting eyes, that seemed to doubt the reality of their vision. But when the child was placed upon the bed, and recognising even in that cadaverous face the features of the mother to whom it owes its being, stretched its little arms towards her with a loving cry, and pouted its rosy lips for the accus- tomed kiss, the heart of the poor stricken wretch that lay there—a victim to man's cruelty and lust—swelled even unto bursting. With a shriek-like a sound of mighty, pent-up winds overcoming a barrier by which they had been long restrained, and triumphing in their victory-Anna snatched the infant to her breast, and covered it with frantic kisses. But her desperate excitement was attended with its inevitable effect. The next instant she fell back upon the pihow, rigid, dead still in her mortal agony, straining the startled child tightly against her wasted bosom They got the crying child away from her at last, though the clutch of the dead girl was very strong. The widow carried Christine to her own home. There the little creature had since remained. There, at the time of Raymond White's summons to London, she was living still. For Mrs. White had taken it into her charitable head to adopt the child. This little story, among other scenes of his former life, passed through the brain of Raymond White during his walk through Kensington-gardens, while he was trying to recollect where he had seen M. Parlandet before. And he had no sooner lived it in fancy over again, than to determine a doubt that had arisen, he hastily returned to the hotel at which he had put up. There, he unlocked his dressing-case, took out the photographic portrait of M. Louis spoken of above, and looked at it earnestly and long. Sud- denly, he raised his head, dashed his fist upon the table, and with as near an approach to an expletive as a gentleman like Raymond could conscientiously JQe, exclaimed- fJ It is the very man And he was perfectly right. The M. Louis who playedso evil a part in Anna Marris's wretched story jras identical with the M. Napoleon Victoire Parlandet Who adorns and brightens mine. CHAPTER VII. A SITTING OF THE TOBACCO PARLIAMENT. RAYMOND WHITE was regularly installed as one of the officials in the mysterious house of Fabian van Flewker and Company. It was arranged that he should pass a few weeks at the office at Augustine- Close, to become in a measure initiated into the transactions then in progress, and should subsequently act as the coadjutor of M. Parlandet, at the West-end branch. He found the business strangely different to any be had heretofore known, not only in its actual operations, but also in the mode in which those operations were carried on. Regularity and method feemed thoroughly tabooed, except by the clerks, but for them, indeed, it is doubtful whether the House would not have become a scene of inextricable con- fnsinaJn a week. To White it almost appeared as if I Printing of every Description the~merchant's grand object was to involve tile cToings of the firm in so much mystery, as to render it im- possible for anyone but himself to say what was actually being done. The same want of system was apparent in every- thing. Whether from a rooted antipathy to order, or from his mind being constantly occupied with examining and rejecting Parlandet's incessant schemes, definite instructions could rarely be ob- tained from Van Flewker. He was lavish enough of reproof when displeased, and not very choice as to the language in which the reproof was conveyed; but he seemed to take it for granted that his subordinates knew by intuition all that he desired. Long habit, and the intercourse of years, will, perhaps enable one man to a certain extent, to enter thus into another's mind but for a stranger the task is impossible. Added to the difficulty of divining Van Flewker's mysterious wishes, came the labour imposed by the little of those wishes that was allowed to transpire being filtered through M. Parlandet. It was one of this gentleman's many pecularities to profess a vast contempt for routine. Originality of thought and of design, even originality of execution, are very excellent things in their way, no doubt; but they cannot entirely supersede method. If it is desired to accomplish many things, but one can be effected, at a time. To this necessity the magnificent mind of M. Napoleon-Victoire Parlandet could in no wise be brought to stoop. When he dictated a letter, he almost invariably introduced some grand improve- ment upon the original scheme which occurred to him while pacing to and fro. The dictatee igno- rant whether the novelty was not the consequence of a subsequent order from Van Flewker, indited it in all innocency of spirit, and suffered for his trust in Parl, accordingly, by receiving the vials of the merchant's wrath. chap 7 With these two crotchety and eccentric personages straightforward Raymond therefore found it very difficult to deal. He was used to have a positive duty set before him to carry out, and to execute that duty plainly to the best of his ability. He saw no object in the verbal refinements which delighted M. Parlandet and his chief, and over which they would dispute for hours with the highest relish. For Parlandet in especial, White speedily conceived the most profound contempt. But here he fell into a not uncommon error. Knowing, as he believed himself to know, the despicable immorality of the man, he argued that Pari was as great an imposter in every other respect as he was in this. His abilities White set down as trifling, while they were in fact considerable, though frequently devoted to absurd and impossible ends. Had Parl only taken as much pains to advance the interest of the firm in a legitimate and honest way, as he ex- pended in evolving impracticable schemes, Van Flewker's expectations of his manager striking a valuable vein might yet have been fulfilled. With all his extravagances, however, M. Parlandet was not a person whom it was prudent to despise, and into this mistake of under-rating a man whom he disliked the more the longer he knew him, Raymond White fell. The consequences of his error will be presently seen. Raymond entered Van Flewker's employment about the middle of a month. With the three clerks already there employed he soon became upon the most friendly terms. All were genial and honest natures; each with his little peculiarities, no doubt, from which they were no more free than you or 1. Everybody is said to be mad upon some point. With Kleckser, in especial, Raymond struck up an intimate friendship, as they were about the same age, had read the same books, and stood upon much the same stage of intellectual culture. The chief difference between them was upon the subject of religion, and as both men were ardent partisans of their respective faiths, each essayed diligently to convert the other to the views which he himself embraced. Hitherto, how- ever, no progress in proselytism had been made by either. chap 7 Herr, Vhite," said Kleckser across the desk, one morning after Raymond had been at Van Flewker's rather more than a fortnight, you will have the opportunity of witnessing to-morrow one of the cere- monies of our business creed. As this was said in German—the language in which these two usually conversed—there is no occasion to translate it into the comical English in which Kleckser generally indulged. "Indeed 11, said Raymond. What may that be ?" September begins to-morrow. Upon the first of every month a cabinet council is held to consider the state of the business. We all attend, and solemnly deliberate upon the affairs of the ftrm. You smoke, J suppose ?" "Sometimes. Why ?" My dear sir, that is part of the ceremony. Herr I van Flewker provides Savannahs gratis, for the purpose of clearing the brain. He thinks that all the crudities of the mind fly away with the smoke." You are joking, surely," said Raymond, with a smile." Am I ?" returned the other. You will see. Is dat not de case, Meestare Viffle ?" appealed Kleckser to the cashier. "Is dere not great consumption of topacco at our cabinet councils ?" I Viffles verified the German's statement. Raymond stared. topacco at our cabinet councils ?" Viffles verified the German's statement. Raymond stared. Do you actually mean to say that Mr. van Flewker consults with his clerks every month upon the con- dition of the business?" he inquired. "I never heard of such a proceeding." That may be, "replied Kleckser, nor did I until I came here. But I am inclined to think it a very sensible plan, for all that. I know the consultation often does considerable good, and would do more, ü- If what ?" asked Raymond. "Well, if some people had not more in- fluence with other people than is good for the health of other people's pockets. That is all I can say at pre- sent. You will know what I mean when you have been with us a little longer," returned cautious Kleckser. Van Flewker entering, the conversation dropped. Upon Raymond's arrival at the office next morn- J ing, by chance after the usual time, he was astonished to find the counting-house deserted by all but the errand-boy. "Why, Pordy," said Raymond, "where are the gentlemen ?" The boy gave a mysterious wink, stuck his tongue in his cheek, and jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the sanctum. 'What do you mean ?" asked White. Ain't they a-goin' it just ?" ejaculated the boy. t My eye Sitch a parleywooin' atween the guvner, b..1;I »^-j;»2dy,_and Mr. Kleckser. Wuss than all his Executed at the Chronicle Office, Penarth. furrin Jarmlri71 can tell yer. r 'ates Frenchy," con- tinued Pordy, with the expression of a profound linguist, a sight more nor them green vhilkses, that I does! An' I can't say no fairer, can I now, Mr. White ?" he asked, appealingly. Raymond was not acquainted with the demerits of the delicacy in question, and said so. "Lor returned the boy, wonderingly. "Well, I did think as everybody knew that it's them little black-shelled uns as is the beauties, and the green uns wot the costers sells is wery queer. Do yer really mean to say yer never tasted a vhilks, Mr. White ?" "Never!" returned Raymond, with an emphatic shudder. Well, I enwies yer," said Pordy the epicure. Aint yer got a 'appiness to come! The fust flavior of a nice fat black vhilks, as it slides down yer vindyr pipe- Down where ? shouted Raymond. "Vhy, down yer vindypipe, to be sure. Vhere else ? "returned the boy, scornfully. You blockhead! You mean the gullet. The windpipe only admits air." Veil, gullint or vindypipe, it's all the same," said the boy, defying anatomy. As I vas a sayin' vhen yer swallers a vhilks for the fust time in yer life, then yer knows vhat's good. And so yer really never tasted 'em ? said Pordy, sympathisingly. Veil, I shouldn't ha' thought it! Never mind the whelks," said Raymond, rather impatiently. "Are the gentlemen all in Mr. van Flewker's room ? They is," returned the boy. And them three's a goin' it horful, I can tell yer-all in Frenchy, too. Furrin Jarmin's bad enough, and so's Rooshun, I've heerd tell: likewise Talian iron You mean Italian." chap 7 Likewise Tallyhun," continued Pordy, unabashed. But of all the 'orrid langwitches as hever vos in- wented, that Frenchy is the wery 'orridest. Why can't they speak English, Mr. White ? It sounds a deal better than all them furrin lingoes." I suppose because they find French easier," said Raymond, greatly amused at Pordy's predilection for his native tongue. But I had no idea you were so learned, Pordy. How do you know the gentlemen are speaking French ?" I ain't larned—not I," said British Pordy, glorying in his ignorance. I vouldn't be if I could. I despises it too much, I does. I'm a Hinglishman born," said Pordy, proudly; and Hinglish is vot I speaks. That's all about it." Well, but you have not answered my question. How do you know the gentlemen are speaking French ?" Vhy, vot else can it be ?" said acute Pordy. "Mr. Whiffles and Mr. Gwillim says their say in Hinglish. Then there's hold Parlingdy—'e's a Frenchy, hain't 'e ? And there's Mr. Kleckser--him as teaches me Hinglish" (this satirically)-" 'e's a Jarmin, but hunderstands Frenchy, I've heerd; and there'e the guvner—I don't know vot 'e is, but I think 'e's a Frenchy too. So there's two Frenchy's ag'in vuft. furrin Jarmin, and o' course they goes in an' vins." Raymond laughed. Well," he soliloquised, half aloud, I should like to know what I am to do. It is not very pleasant to sit here all the morning with one's hands before one. Did they leave no message for me, Pordy ?" he inquired. Vhy, o' course," returned the errand boy. Didn't. I tell yer ? Veil, I meant ter, so it's all the same. Guvner said you vas to go in as veil soon as ever you come. My eye! Von't you catch it for bein' so late Why, you abominable little reptile ?" ejaculated Raymond, boxing Pordy's ears until they rung again. How dare you keep me here with your nonsense all this time ? Get out of the way And Raymond flew along the passage to the sanctum door. chap 1 'Ere I say, you, Mr. White This won't do, you know!" called Pordy after him. Vot 'ave I done to have my 'ead smacked ? Ah there he goes into the room and lucky, too. I was just agoin' to 'it 'im. Now, that's vot I call hinjustice," continued Pordy, folding his arms and perching himself defiant and grim upon the forbidden heights of Kleckser's stool. I did think better o' that Mr. White, but 'e's as bad as all of 'em. 'Ere 'ave I been a hentertainin' of Im for more'n a kervorter of an 'our with my him- provin' conwersation, and vot's my revard ? He smacks my 'ead, and calls me a—vot vos it ? It sounded big, too-a bounceable, no, a 'bominable little reptile I'll reklect that. Next time Bill Sparks cheeks me, this is vot I'll do. I'll stick him up against the wall an' say, 4Bill, you've been a, cheekin' of me horful, vitch it's vot I can't hallow. It's- my 'pinion, Villiam, as you're a 'bominable little reptile! an' so take that!" chap 7 And as Pordy, carried away by his vivid imagina- tion, leant backwards to box the ears of the con- tumacious Sparks with greater dignity and effect, he lost his balance and toppled off the stool, rapping his head with painful distinctness, first upon the desk, then upon the office floor. In dismayed watch of the rise of hitherto unknown organs, newly developed by his fall, we will leave him for the present. When White entered Fabian van Flewker's private room, he found the merchant sitting at his ac- customed desk, opening letters, with his staff around him. The window was open, but a thick smoke filled the apartment, calculated, even an ardent lover of tobacco would suppose, rather to confuse the brain than to clear it. But this was not the merchant's opinion, and he was paramount. Take a chair, Meestare Vhite," said Van Flewker, and help yourself." He pushed a box of Havannahs towards the clerk as he spoke, and continued opening his letters, and ranged, when read, in little piles. From Schmidt, of Hamburg," he said, tearing open an envelope, with a glance at Parlandet. Aha the very respectable M. Schmidt," responded Parl. He is good man of business, M. Van Flewker, very good man of business. But, my dear Meestare Vhiffie, how it was that you commit the unpardon-able crime to let my message go to Schmidt without you read him through ? You know M. van Flewker rely upon you so entirely. Ah it was grave error of yours, Meestare Vhiffie." I generally do look through all your messages, Mounseer Parlandet," returned Whiffles, quietly; but I suppose I forgot to do so that time:" But, M. Vhiffle, it is very bad to forget. Half the misfortune, great part of the misery in this world, come of forget. Sup-pose, now, any of the acceptors of those bills forget to honour their drafts, what you think M. van Flewker will say?" The cool impudence of the man, in thus persistently laying upon Whiffles the blame solely attributable to himself, was arousing even the bookkeeper's equable temper into ire. He contented himself, however, with