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2 corrections, most recently by peter-macinnis - Show corrections

:Strayed from the Flock. (Continued.) Whistler's-court, Westminster, is not the most select'place in the world to reside in. In fact, Whistler's court is neither clean, comfortable, nor quiet. Its atmosphere is redolent of cheap gin, onions, common cheese, and rank tobacco. Its inhabitants consist, for the most part, of hulking, lazy labourers, brazen faced. foul-mouthed women, and dirty, miserable, sore-eyed children. From the dawn of the sun unto the going down thereof, Whistler's-court is in a perpetual turmoil. Either one female has called another female " no lady!" and immediately there is a row, the husbands eventually being involved in it, and they in their turn, find it necessary to fight it out, to avenge their insulted honour; or else, Mrs. S.mebody has slapped the child of Mrs. Somebody else, for call ing her " names," and the latter indignant matron swears that she will not rest until sahe has bestowed upon the offender a piece of her mind-a peculiar operation, which results in a scrimmage. Then the police are called in, and, next morning, the English revenue is increased by sundry fines,.which make their way from Whistler's-court into the coffers of the State. In a wretched room, in one of the still more wretched houses which lined each side of Whistler's-court, dwelt Douglas Grant with his wife and infant child. Since the time when Hernmione- had left Apollo Lodge, things had gone badly with the young writer; from the moment he had wedded her whom he loved so well, a dark cloud seemed thrown across his pathlL. In Hermione he found a loving and domesticated woman, with an ill regulated mind, for she was fretful, capricious, and rain-three failts which weighed heavily upon theoover sensitive organization of her husband. Vainly had le reasoned with' her; but they could not, neither did they endeavour to understand each other's nature ; the consequence was, that a bitter coolness sprang up between them. Douglas toiled on in a mechanical manner, with the object of supporting his home and the woman whom he had married ; while Hermione wouldabsent herself for part of the day, even leaving her dying babe, and would wander listlessly about, hugging her own sor rows, and laying up the seeds of mono mania. Douglas never interfered in her pursuits, for her treatment, com hined with the effects of the poverty they had known, had rendered him careless and callous to all around, with the exception of his little one, over whose cradle he would bend for hours, and for whoim he had'procured the best advice and attention that his meagre means could purchase. Oftimes. as both husband and wife gazed upon the suffering innocent, would they desire in their hearts that they might be reconciled by the side of the babe who formed the connecting link between the pair; but when Douglas-his old devotion reviving would make a step in that direction, Hermione, with proud bearing and flashing eye, would turn haughtily away, even though it the same moment her hleart was yearning to clasp her husband to her bosom. Thus misery and. contention held high revel-in the little household, for there was no one to intervene between the two, and open their eyes to the wicked folly of which they were guilty. In the Douglas Grant of Whistler's, court it would have been a matter of no small difficulty to have recognised the young author, who two years betore, had been turned from Apollo Lod?e. His figure was bent, as if with the effects of old age, his hand shook, and his low, hacking cough and sunken cheeks-rendered still more ghastly by their hectic flush-too plainly showed that consumption, the curse of England, had marked him for a victim. Douglas was seated before a narrow table, upon which were the remains of a pint of porter and some bread, "to gether with a few sheets of common manuscript paper, an ink bottle, and the well-worn stump of what had at one time been a quill pen: His face was buried in his hands, and between the? half-closed fingers he was gazing vacantly at the heading of an article, which he had at tlhat moment commit ted to paper.. It was a title that offered a sad contrast to his own feel ings at that instant; and as he looked upon "Merry Moments for Merry M0adcaps," he thought so too. SEver. and again he would turn round in his seat, and gaze anxiously towards

tlhe cot in whicli his baby slumbered uneasily, and a' melancholy smile of resignation would flit across his wan face as he looked at the child, and knew that in its innocent blood there coursed the same fell disea'e which would carry him to an early gray:e. "Al,, Hermione! derrest Hermione!". he muttered, rising from his seat and pacing the room, " may heaven forgive her for thus deserting me hour after hour ! I know that this wretched room is no fitting home for her. Ac cursed be the hour in which I dragged the beautiful girl down tomyown dread ful poverty ! How can she lore me how can she care for me l" And with a groan, wrung from him bylthe anguish of his thoughts, Doug las sank back upon his rickety seat. Then he continued to himself " I begin to have dreadful suspicions of Hermione-of her-oh, heaven ! m;y wife ! I cannot fail to remember that strange dream, of the suicide should she have left me to fly" with another! 'AJlready that hliour hals passed since she promised to retnrii.'! And immersed in the tormenting suspicioins which filled his mind, he went on " She confessed to me the manner in which her father had treated her. She told me that, villain as he was, he would not recognise her, and had ordered his menials to cast her forth. Yet, strange !--since that day she has ever gone out at regular hours, and' has taken greater trouble with her appearance. "Oh ! heavenly mercy ! my suspicions, my doubts are, must be, correct! Stay, there may be some proof in her writing-desk, which she is ever careful to keep locked." And with the fury of a mtalman thrill ing through his emaciated frame, Douglas Grant dashed at a side table, and clutched hold of a writing-desk. Without pausing to consider the act he was about to perpetrate, lie seized hold of the poker. With one blow lie shivered the frail case into a thousand pieces, and with a wild cry, he rapidly glanced over the papers, which were exposed to his view. Many of them were letters which he himself had written during the happy days of their courtship. But suddenly his eyes dilate, his countenance assumes an ashy paleness. his limbs tremble, for, beneath the letter, he has come upon a miniature portrait of a face which lie at once recognises. It was the features of an aristocratic but dissipaoed-looiing man, the face which he had beheld in his strange dream ! " M\y dream ! my dream was but the shadow of the future!" he cried dis tractedly, and he looked at the back of the portrait, upon which was written, in a bold hand "' From Cheveley Rogers, To his own beloved lermione." " Revenge! revenge!" `feebly cried Douglas, as bhe tha?W the miniatuid from him, and sank to' the' floor ina a swoon, while, at the same iistant, the landlady, who had been'alarmed by the noise, opened the door, and with a frightened face, gazed at the prostrate body. Then, with a woman's instinct, she looked towards the baby. Its little face had assumed a deep purple tinge, and, with a shriek of alarm, the rough woman dropped a tear, as she gently murmured "The little lamb has gone to heaven!" CHAPTER XIII. A cold, wet evening, a drizzling rain falling, and the streets almost deserted, and the iron tongues of a hundred steeples proclaiming the hour of ten. There were but few passers by. The Strand seemed deserted by its usual frequenters, for even those unfortunate women, who, braving all weathers, recklessly ply their hideous calling be neath the canopy of night, even these poor wretches had sought the friendly shelter of some coffee-house or tavern. The latter places of entertainment were driving a roaring trade, and from their half-closed doors canme forth sounds of merriment and loud oaths, and the still louder laughter of thoughtless men. These sounds jarred harshly upon the ears of a figure that was slowly walking up the Strand in the direction of Temple Bar. The figure that came creeping along so listlessly,ivith such a look of painful weariness upon its poor, thin, haggard face, was that of a man-a young man -whose clothes were threadbare and shabby, with unsightly patches dis tributed at irregular intervals over each garment.' His paper collar was much worn, adid under the combined influences of grease, dirt, and a length ened service, had assumed a most remarkable hne. His napless hat was crushed and bent, and from the manner in which his boots bulged out, and the peculiar sound that they made as their wearer traversed the wet and sloppy pavement, it required no prophet to tell that they had long before seen their best days. Once he stopped opposite Waterloo bridge, and the gleam from the lamp of a iassing-cab fell upon his face, and revealedthe features of Mr. Fritter. He glanced in the direction of thie river long and earnestly; but, after a few moments' consideration, he shook his head, and gave a slight shiver, as he buttoned his threadbsrecoat still tighter across hIis breast, muttering, as hlie con tinned his weary way "' No, no-not yet; that shall be the last recourse! I'll try once more to find either the count or the mar clioness." There was only one shop open in:thel Strand, and that was the eating-house which lays within the shadow of St. Mary's Church, and before the uninvit

ing' though steaming windows of this place, did Horace Fritter stop to gaze with longing eyes upon the remains of that day's joints, the bare bones of which were-by souff artful and mysterious arranlgemeut of steam-pipes -still furiously smoking away, as if they had just been taken off the spit. Horace Fritter thrust his hand still deeper into his pockets,, in a vain search for that silver coin which. he knew full well he did not possess, and, with a sigh, he was about to turn away when he heard an exclamation of mingled anger and astonishment be hind him, and at the same instant, a hand was laid heavily upon Ihis shoulder. "What ! Horace Fritter !" cried the voice, with an angry sneer; "so you've broken your agreement by returning to England. Well, it is no more'than I expected." Fritter turned round to the person who addressed him, and found hiniself facing the count. ; . " You're the very individualI've been looking after," said Mi. Fritter, making an effort. to. assume. his old gaiety of manner. " A desire to see you, and a weakness for the roast. beef and hitter beer of old England, has induced me" to leave without regret the gin slings, the corpse revirers, and the doughnuts of Cousin Jonathan. "In other words," said the count, angrily, "you have drunk and gambled away the handsome sum which I allowed you, and have returned heroe in the belief that I would again supply means to maintain you in idleness and profligacy. But if such is your idea, let me tell you that you are mistaken." "Look you, Hubert Gray," returned Mr. Fritter, savagely, " I know you, and at the present moment I am rendered half desperate by hunger and cold. I have been your tool, and you thought that you were rid of me ; but, cuss me, I've come back, and Ifind you well-dressed andin clover. I want money, and I am going to have it-either out of you, or out of the marchioness. Ah! ah! that makes you spend your eyes and cry ' Pandoodle !' " " What do you mean?'" cried the count. "I mean that I used the money that you gave me to settle in America on a very different lay, my bully boy t" And Mr. Fritter tapped the -aide of his nasal organ in an ' expressive manner, which gesture indicated that he possessed an immense appreciation of his own cleverness. "And that was 7" asked the count. "Devoting my time, talents, and ability in discovering the whereabouts of a certain kid." "Ha! and you found the boy, and Irought him back to England, cried 'tie count, jumping to an instant con "'usion, for he felt assured that Horace . ritter would have been more humble asless he felt that he was playing a e game. l-Oh ! ain't it likely, now ?" said Mr. .tter, with :a leer. " 01h, yes-very i'nch so! Wouldn't you like to know? Ain't I precious green !" And Horace Fritter chuckled, while the count bit his lip, for he saw, when too late, that his haste had spoilt him. "Have you the boy ?" demanded the latter. ' "That's my business," was the reply. "I've an article to sell. If your price is good enough, you shall' have it; if it ain't, I'1 take it somewhere else. -That's the straight tip for you." And Mr. Fritter thrust his hands in his pockets again, and nodded his head in a very determined manner. S"Well, well," said the count, changing his tone, "I'm willing to talk over the matter with you; but we can't carry ons a conversation of this the open street. Come over to the Somerset and have supper, and there we will' talk the matter over." " I have had nothing to eat to-day," said Mr. Fritter;' "but it'. ain't the first time that I've dined.with Duke HuBmphrey, sitting on an empty mile stone smoking a cold pipe." " An empty stomach isunpleasant," replied the count, evidently now bent upon securing the good opinion of his companion, " and a man with his pockets to let is, as a rule, a person to be specially avoided-at least, such is the way of the world; but when I see an old companion in distress, I.rather throw over those sentiments, and, following the natural dictates of my own heart, fill both the stomach and pocket." And the count smiled benignly as he concluded; but Mr. Fritter winked at his companion with an impudent leer, and, thrusting his tongue into his cheek, significantly muttered "Gammon !" "Eh r' "Walker I" "Mr. Fritter----" began the count. "Look you here, guv'nor," broke in that worthy—" this 'ere palavering won't do for this child. If you don't turn it up, I shall sling my hook and cut my lucky; in other words, if you're a-going to begin preaching about your righteousness, like a freshly fledged devil-dodger, I'm off!" " You do not understand me, Frit- ter." "Oh, don't I !" replied the other, savagely. "I'll tell you what I under- stand-that if your soft words and palaver mean that you're up to any devilry with me, I'll make cold meat of you, even if I have to make my last bow from the tree without leaves !" " No, no, Fritter," muttered dithe count, with something like alarm in his tone-" no, no ! You are so suspicios ! Your hunger has rendered you desperate. Let us enter here, and talk over the matter."

Horace Fritter asented ; and as they entered the Somerset Hotel, the count cast upon his companion a glance so malignant in its intensity, that it boded but ill for that, individal's future' wel fare. (To be coni?inued.) rZ·