Welsh Newspapers

Search 15 million Welsh newspaper articles

Hide Articles List

1 article on this Page

---------GHT AT LAST;I


GHT AT LAST; OR, THE FELON'S BRAND. [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. J CHAPTER IX.-(Continued.) She man who had just appled to Monsieur Pith fer, employment was seated at a table in the only iair the room contained. Before him lay his cross, pin medals and a pistol. The soldier's head was Muring upon his hands, and he was earnestly regard- 81 the object upon the table. Owing to his position, Be was unable to perceive the watcher at the door of Jaie room. "It is hard! it is hard!" Monsieur Pith at last beard him say, with a bitter sigh. For a fortnight I kgve striven for an opportunity to gain a living by JiOfteet toil. I have been repulsed by my country- men; I have been humiliated by the foreigner. They will not let me live. Well! I have looked Death too I )ften in the face to fear him now and I will die The listener had stolen gradually into the room as Parlandet spake, and stood now behind his chair. Unconscious of the presence of any living soul, the p-grenadier raised his head from his hands, took up the pistol, cocked it, deliberately placed the muzzle against his temple, and was in the act of pressing the trigger, when the weapon was struck up from behind. Another half second would have been too late. As it was, a tongue of flame swept harmlessly over jarlandet's head, singeing his hair and scorching his forehead with its fiery breath. The charge lodged with a crash in the ceiling. Turning in amazement tel see whose was the hand that still grasped his pistol, for the second time'within half an hour, the M-grenadier gazed full into the eyes of Monsieur Pith. The two men stood face to face, each holding the Recharged, still smoking arm. Man man exclaimed the startled printer. How can you dare commit this cowardly sin ( What! 9 soldier, and afraid "Cowardly! afraid!" panted Jean. "Englishman, eware I repeat my words," reiterated dauntless Mon- fieur Pith. "None but a coward attempts to fly from the ills of life, however hard to bear, and rush Onsummoned into the presence of his Maker. None but a man who is afraid to face his troubles courts a jronton death." This was a view of the subject so entirely new to Jean, that he positively staggered. He had never fegarded the question in this light before. To his benighted mind it had appeared that the choice lay only between death ana dishonour, and he had thought it an act of virtue to prefer the first. The prejudices of a life were not thus easily to be over- come. Though shaken by the words of Monsieur Fith, he would not yield without a struggle. Ah, monsieur responded Jean. It is an easy thing for you to reason so- yuu whose life is probably & scene of ease and comfort., at any rate of hope. But for me, why should i live? I cannot obtain employ- pent. I will neither beg nor exist upon alms. Honour forbids me to subsist, by fraud. There is nothing left for me but to die. Give me the pistol, munsieur and leave me to my fate." If I do," said sturdy Monsieur Pith, "may I be hanged Monsieur Pith's sincerity must plead his excuse for 1si ill-breeding. That he was in earnest was very Soon shown. He slipped the pistol into his pocket, fpofee a few hearty sentences to Jean, which effected a marvell.ous change fur the better in the reckless fellow's physiognomy, and carried him away upon the rostant to his office in the Street of Peace. Arrived there, Monsieur Pith delivered over the captive to the eharge of his overseer, who provided the ex-grenadier f#vith the long-sought occupation. It was hard for Jean to l end his horny fingers- Itiffened to iron by long years of carrying the musket ,to the task of picking up those tiny leaden messen- gers. which, arranged in words, are more effectual in Spreading peace and goodwdl between the nations Than tons of those other leaden missiles Jean had fteen employed in sending among his fellows. Yet he was not less a soldier- now than then and with all due deference to the profession of arms, I venture to Relieve a far more useful one. Enlisted in the ranks pf that great army of the Press, which wages con- ftant war against the grand mischief-maker— ftant war against the grand mischief-maker— Ignorance, with her iioisesome brood of Bigotry, Intolerance, Superstition, and thousands of their J. picked kin, his labours were directed now to the enlightenment of human minds, which is surely I fetter service to the common cause than the ferocious jjjutilation of human bodies. Difficult as the task was, at his time of life, t<5 turn to another mode of gaining bread, Jjonest Jean persevered manfully, until he had ac- ?uired at least, a decent proficiency in his art. For nil two years he laboured on untiringly in the work- shop of Monsieur Pith. Then came a change. Upon the same landing of the house as that upon which Jean resided there lived a widow and her daughter. Madame Dumont was the relict of a captain slain at Water- loo, under whom he had served. The grenadier knew that these poor ladies were sorely put to it to earn their bread. A little casual embroidery work I was almost their only resource. Honest Jean was in the habit of rendering them such trilling service and Resistance as they would accept. But the pride of Etle nurture is very great —especially when attended the bitter consciousness of grinding want—and in s good offices were principally confined to fetch- tog water and fuel, or executing small commissions for Mademoiselle Louise. Once, indeed, he had ven- tured to hint that better food and warmer raiment would not be undesirable for both, but the quiet assent of Madame Dumont, and the mournful and decided air with which she instantly changed the aubject, had warned him this was dangerous ground. Strange to say, however, with all this humility of Spirit, with all this knowledge of the immeasurable gulf between himself, the humble, unlettered, private, and the daughter of his dead officer, Jean Parlandet yet dared to nourish in his heart of hearts a secret passion for Mademoiselle Louise. He scarcely ventured to confess it, even to himself as he lay upon Jljs hard, narrow couch at night, and in the dark, with no eye to read his countenance. In vain he Galled himself in spirit, all the uncomplimentary iames yet in his recollection from the not over-choice regimental vocabulary. In vain he recalled to mind that he was old enough to be Louise's father. In vain Printing of every Description he reasoned upon trie utterly Iiopele^ nature of the sentiment he felt. Passion and nature dominated over reason, and left him powerless to resist the desire to call Louise hie own. Madame Dumont was ill—so ill as to be unable to leave her bed. For weeks nothing but a little broth had passed her lips. She refused all medical aid, upon the plea that no doctor upon earth could do her good. She felt herself slowly fading-fading out of existence, and her only sorrow was for the unprotected girl she must leave behind. Morning and night Jean Parlandet knocked at his neighbour's door, to ask if he could be of any service, and to inquire after Madame Dumont's health. On the particular evening to which I now refer he was startled by a message from Louise that her mother wished to speak with him. His faint remonstrances upon the unfitness of his appearance—he was in his working dress-were promptly overruled, and he was soon standing at the sick woman's bedside. In obedience to a sign from her mother, Louise hastily quitted the room. Jean," said the widow Dumont, look in my Awe and tell me what you see." She was lying back in the bed, half supported by pillows. A flickering oil-lamp gave out scanty light, rendered more dubious by the draughts from door and window which waved the flame. Wondering what the invalid could mean, Parlandet gazed upon her features. Large gloomy eyes, giittering with a feverish radiance from out the yellow skin, drawn tightly over the skeleton of the face as parchment on a drum, looked eagerly, hungrily into his. The lips of Madame Dumont were parted; her strong, even teeth, set firm and close together in a massive jaw, shone as the fitful gleam of the lamp fell on her figure. The close, white cap around her ghastly face, framed in her countenance as if she lay already in her shroud. Parlandet gazed at the visage, and, soldier as he was, he shuddered. To his practised eye, that had seen the Destroyer in a hundred different forms upon a hundred different plains, the expression written there was as clearly legible as if upon the pages of a book. Tell me, Jean," repeated the widow what you see in my face ?" Madame," said the soldier, I see-Death. Good returned the widow. You save me ex- planations, for which the time is short. You see Death, Jean I feel his icy touch. For me, as my OTTO self, he has no terrors. Death is rest. Save for my girl, attmce the care and blessing of my life, I should have rejoiced to meet it when I lost Eugene. But it is hard, Jean Parlandet, it is very hard, to quit this earth knowing that I leave her to battle with the world without a friend." Painfully raising herself upon the pillow, she Ia-id her wasted hand upon the soldier's large and homy fingers. Her eyes seemed to dart vivid rays of fire into his soul. If ever human being strove with all the power of a resolute, though failing sense, to read another's heart, that being was here. I leave my girl without a friend," she repeated. Say, Jean Parlandet, as you will one day have to answer God, do I, or do I not ?" Madame, no returned Parlandet, sturdily. So I long as it is in my power to raise but one finger to I protect, to succour, to work for Mademoiselle Louise, I will not falter in the trust. I swear it by all that men hold sacred or holy! I swear it by him whom I have served with fidelity and honour! I swear it by my mother's grave!" He raised his hand solemnly as he spoke, then lifted to his lips the fingers of the frail human relic I, before him, fast returning to its pristine dust, and kissed them respectfully. "It is well," murmured the' widow. "So far I I am satisfied. But it is not enough, Jean, that you should do this. It is not enough that my girl should always have an honourable man to watch over her footsteps. The world is evil and censorious, and attributes bad motives to the purest deeds. I would have my girl respected and happy. She is young, she will soon recover from my loss. You are a man of honour, and have been a soldier of Napoleon. Nobler title none can have. My Eugene rose from the ranks to be an officer. The fortune of war be- friended him, though it has not done the same for you. No matter; you are our equal in all that makes truly great. Honest man to honest woman. If you will have Louise to wife, she will be yours. I have said." Upon his knees by the death-bed's side, large tears of grateful emotion streaming down his rugged visage, the workings of his simple soul were shown in the heavings of his breast. "It is enough," faintly muttered the widow. My prayers are answered, and I can die in peace. Call in Louise; my hour is near at hand." Six months later Louise Dumont, the captain's orphan daughter, was the wife of ex-grenadier Jean, Parlandet, humble compositor in the printing office of Monsieur Pith. CHAPTER X. FATHER AND SO I THE place where the ggreat event of Parlandet junior's birth occurred was, as we know, that small and I narrow street in Paris of which mention has been made, and the time about two years after the i-.al% riage of Louise and Jean. The necessity of residing near the place of his employment compelled Jean to live in this unhealthy spot, which was, however, no worse than the majority of the poorer quarters of Paris at that time, and the child, born in this noisome quarter, roughed it like his fellows. The father, at his work all day, visiting his poor home merely to eat and to sleep, too wearied out with "1 to look to the education and training of his child, ■.he care of the boy devolved almost solely upon his mbther. And she, I regret to say, gravely neglected her duty^VThis was one of the evils of that ill-assorted match. Turn the matter as you may, put what romantic face upon it you please, marriages in which the previous social position or the mental affinity of the parties widely I differs, rarely prosper. The inequality existing in the first case may perhaps be smoothed out by strong affection; in the second, never. < The consequence of the difference of education and refinement between Jean Parlandet and his wife displayed itself chiefly after the birth of their child. By that time, their married life was entering upon that second, cooler stage of mutual esteem, based upon mutual knowledge and respect, which comes to most. Here, however, Louise failed. Not every woman who has cherished secret hopes of a modestly competent, if not a wealthy lot, has sufficient great- uess of soul to reconcile herself to an inferior station. t Louise Parlandet, at all events, had not. She en- dured her husband, rather than cared tor him, and Executed at the Chronicle Office, Penarth. Centred ail the IfttY affection her smair heart was capable of feeling for anything Desiae nerseif, Upss her son. The result might have been foreseen. The boy grew up headstrong, passionate, wilful, selfish. Naturally possessed of strong passions, inheriting a taste for refinement from his mother, he had all the wish for luxury, dissipation, and pleasure, without the means to gratify his desires. These, as he grew older, he soon discovered for himself. It was useless for his father to advise, to remonstrate, to threaten— finally, to chastise. The foolish, ill-advised caresses and pity of his mother, the moment Jean's back was turned, undid in a moment such good as fear, if not awakened conscience, might have brought about. Napoleon-Victoire Parlandet, at the age of fourteen, was as experienced, as wicked, and as old in vice as a Parisian street-boy well could be. At this time he was brought by his father into the printing-office of Monsieur Pith, and, after a short trial, bound apprentice as compositor to that worthy, Anglo-Gaul. The effects of his domestic training soon appeared. Clever and able when he pleased, Na, oleon- Victoire speedily mastered the rudiments of 1 tis art, learnt just enough to make his labour profitabe to his master, if he chose to labour, and there stopped. He was the last to appear at the workshop in the morn- ing, the first to rush away to meals or for the night—the laziest and least industrious being about the place. Here he partly acquired that knowledge of English which we have seen that he possessed. Finding that the lad had a talent for languages-a faculty, by the way, as much a gift of Nature as poetry—his employer took some trouble to teach his apprentice his own native tongue. I* this pursuit the boy acted as in all others: learnt with avidity to a certain point, then stopped short, and went no further. He had the foundation, which was sufficient for present uses; it it were worth while subsequently to raise a super- structure, that could easily, he thought, be done. Monsieur Pith, feeling an interest in the lad for his father's sake, expended much valuable breath-of which his available stock became smaller as he grew in girth-in good advice to the young prodigal, and vainly exhorted him to tread in the footsteps of honest Jean. Nap, as his fellow-apprentices called the boy, even then eloquent and plausible, would endeavour to wriggle adroitly out of the scrape of the moment, and cast the blame upon other shoulders or, finding that impossible, would assure Monsieur Pith that he took especially to heart his gracious and paternal words, and would set a pattern of propriety in future to his comrades. Whereat Monsieur Pith would shake his head with warning gravity, while Nap marched triumphantly out of the counting-house with all the honours of war. Thus things progressed until the close of Nap's apprenticeship was nigh at hand. He was by this time nearly nineteen. So greatly had his inattention and laziness latterly inoreased, that Monsieur Pith had declared he would not keep him in his employ one hour after the legal time for his discharge had arrived. As this had been said openly in the general work-room, before all the men, Nap felt his honour aggrieved. He cared nothing for the discharge, which indeed rather suited his own future plans but the insult must be avenged. Avenged it therefore was, according to the peculiar code of honour set up by gentlemen of Monsieur Napoleon-Victoire Parlandet's turn of mind. Upon his arrival at the office one morning, M. Pith, looked into the desk in his counting-house for a cer- tain black leather pocket-book which he required. It was missing. Believing he must have left it by mistake at home, he dispatched a messenger with a note to his daughter, to send him the pocket-book which he thought would be found in his dressing- case. The messenger brought back in answer that the pocket-book was not there. As it contained papers of which he had urgent need, Monsieur Pith, with sundry ejaculations as to the shiftlessness of his woman-kind, hurried back to his home, and searched everywhere, but without success. Returning to the office, it occurred to him to examine the lock of the desk. In one of the wards he found a little piece of wax. The mystery was cleared up. His desk had been :opened with a false key, and he had been robbed. Next came the reflection, who could have been the culprit? Monsieur Pith called his overseer into council, and the two, after mature deliberation, arrived at the following conclusions:—1 First. Motives of revenge, not of profit-for the papers were of value only to Monsieur Pith-had prompted the robbery. Second. The evil-doer had easy access to the office; consequently, was somebody in Monsieur Pith's employ. Third. The person most likely to have perpetrated the deed from the motive presumed, was Napoleon- Victoire Parlandet. Ttte tneft must have been committed during the past night, or early that morning, for Monsieur Pith had been the last to quit the counting-house on the foregoing evening. Having letters to write, he had remained after the men had left, and was certain he had locked up the pocket-book in his desk before going away. Could the thief have obtained access in the night ? Certainly not by violent means. No locks. were broken, not a fastening was displaced. Save that the pocket-book had unquestionably dis- appeared, which could hardly have happened with- out hands, everything was in precisely the same order as when Monsieur Pith had departed the sight before. chap 10 Then came the consideration, where was the sus- pected boy ? M. Robertin reported that he had come late to his work that morning; but that, added the overseer grimly, was the rule, not the exception. I With some latent hope that the boy might be innocent, Monsieur Pith summoned him to the count- ing house, ostensibly to rebuke his late arrival. Employer and overseer both narrowly scrutinised every feature on Nap's countenance, as he replied, with every appearance of truth, that he had overslept himself. M. Pith was struck, however, by the total absence of t-he boy's usual bravado. Ordinarily, when reproved, Nap's manner might be described as "bumptious now it was humble, almost respectful; still, withouttheslightestsign of an uneasy conscience. Nap dismissed. Monsieur Pith looked at his overseer, and the overseer looked at M. Pith, each with a vague impression that they were no nearer the solution of the mystery. As a last resource, Monsieur Pith called Jean, recounted his loss, and frankly told him of the suspicion entertained against his son. So far as it is in the power of man to be, Jean was petrified. He kuew that Nap was loose and profligate, but had never dreamed it possible that a boy with Parlandet blood in his veins could have descended to this d-spicable* depth. Still as he pointed out, and as Monsieur Pith, at once hoijestly admitted, the ground for suspicion