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As long as I can remember, I have always
loved the Citytaking a strange delight in
wandering up and down its busy streets,
elbowing its merchants in their favourite
gathering-places, and listening to the marvellous
histories of many of its greatest money-
makers. I like these men, perhaps, because I
am not of them. I am of that listless, aimless,
dreamy nature, which could not make
money if it tried. The most promising enterprise
would wither under my touch. Few
are the guineas in my pocket that I can call
my own, but I am well content, and no
feeling of envy arises in my mind as I listen
to the musical clinking of coin that comes
from the open doors of the rich banking-

My most frequent haunt is an old nook
in the heart of the City, which, although
now thrown open as a public thoroughfare,
must have been, in former times, the private
garden of some wealthy merchant's mansion.
The entrance is under a low archway, built
with bricks of the deepest purple red, and
over the archway, in a white niche, stands a
short, weather-beaten figure of a man, cut in
stone, in a costume of a former age. Passing
over the well-worn pavement through the
arch, you find yourself in a small quadrangle
containing that rarest of all things in these
modern daysa city garden. Small care
does it now receive, because no one can claim
it as his own. The ground is black and hard
the yellow gravel having long since been
trodden outand the chief vegetation which
it boasts are two large chesnut trees, that
seem to gain in breadth and vigour as the
years roll on. A few drooping flowers in one
corner, show that some town-bred hand is
near, fond of the children of the country,
though little versed in their nature and their
ways. Under the shade of one of the trees
stands an old wooden seat, chipped in many
places, and rudely carved with names and
dates. Sitting on this bench, and looking
before you to the other side of the quadrangle,
the eye rests upon a short passage running
under wooden arches, like an aisle in the old
Flemish Exchange of Sir Thomas Gresham.
On the face of the brickwork dwelling surmounting
these arches (now turned into offices)
is fixed a rain-washed sun-dial, and
over this is a small weathercock turret that
at one time contained a bell.

Any time between twelve o'clock and four,
I may be found seated upon that old bench
under the tree. Sometimes I bring a book,
and read; sometimes I sit in listless repose,
repeopling the place with quaintly-dressed
shadows of the old stout-hearted merchants
of the past. I seldom have more than one
companion. Under the archway, and along
the passage, busy men pass to and from
their work the whole day long, but they
are too much occupied, or too anxious, to
give a moment's glance at the garden, or
to linger by the way. My only fellow-visitor
is an old clerk, whose years must have
numbered nearly ninety, but whose memory
is clear and strong, although his body is bent
with age. He is a kind of pensioner connected
with the place, and is the owner of the
few faded flowers in the corner of the ground,
which he tends with his own hands. For
eighty long, weary years he has lived in
these old buildings, never having been out
of the City further than Newington fields.
Here he was born, and here, when the appointed
time shall come, within sound of the
familiar bells, and the familiar footsteps of
the money-makers tramping over his head,
he will drop into a City grave.

From the day when I ventured to give him
some advice about the management of a lilac
bush, apparently in a dying state, he came
and sat by my side, pouring into my willing
ear all the stories that he knew about the old
houses that surrounded us. He soon found
in me a sympathetic listener, who never
interrupted or wearied of his narrativesthe
stores of a memory which extends over
more than three-fourths of a century of time.

At one corner of the quadrangle is a part
of the building with several long, dark,
narrow, dusty windows, closely shut up with
heavy oaken shutters, scarcely visible through
the dirt upon the glass. None of the panes are
broken, like those of a house in chancery, but
its general gloomy, ruined appearance would
assuredly have given it up as a prey to
destruction, if it had not been in its present
secluded position. Its dismal aspect excited
my interest, and I obtained from my companion
his version of its story.

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