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I give it in his own person, though not
exactly in his own words.

About the middle of the last century, two
brothers were in business in these houses as
general merchants, whose names were James
and Robert Fordyce. They were quiet,
middle-aged, amiable gentlemen, tolerably
rich, honourable in their dealings, affable and
benevolent to their servants, as I found
during the few years that I was in their
employment. Their transactions were large,
and their correspondents very numerous;
but, although they must have been constantly
receiving information, by letter and otherwise,
that would have been valuable to them
in speculations on the stock-market, they
never, to the best of my knowledge, made
use of it for that purpose, but confined their
attention strictly to their trade. This building
was not divided then as you see it now. In
that corner which is closed up were our
counting-houses, the private room of the two
brothers being on the ground-floor. The
rest of the square was used as warehouses,
except the side over the arches, and that was
set apart as the private residence of the
partners, who lived there together, one being
a bachelor, and the other a widower without
children. I was quite a young man at this
time, but I remember everything as distinctly
as if it was only yesterday that I am speaking
about, instead of seventy years ago. I have,
perhaps, a strong reason for my sharpened
memoryI consider myself the innocent
cause of the destruction of the firm of Fordyce,
Brothers, through an accident resulting from
my carelessness. One afternoon I went to
the Post-office with a letter directed to a
firm in Antwerp with whom we had large
dealings. I dropped it on the way. It
contained a bank draft for a large amount,
and, although every search was made for it
that afternoon and evening, it was without
success. The next morning, about eleven
o'clock, it was brought to our counting-house
by a rather short young man of singular
though pleasing aspect, named Michael
Armstrong. He had a long interview
with the elder partner, Mr. James Fordyce,
in the private room, and what transpired
we never exactly knew; but the
result was, that from that hour Michael
Armstrong took his seat in our office as the
junior clerk.

I had many opportunities of observing our
new companion, and I used them to the best
of my ability. His appearance was much in
his favour, and he had a considerable power
of making himself agreeable when he thought
proper to use it. It was impossible to judge
of his age. He might have been fifteen,—he
might have been thirty. His face, at times,
looked old and careworn, at others, smiling
and young, but there was sometimes a vacant
calculating, insincere expression in his eye,
that was not pleasant. He made no friends
in the place,—none sought him, none did
he seek,—and I do not think he was liked
enough by any of the clerks to be made
the subject of those little pleasantries that
are usually indulged in at every office. They
had probably detected his ability and ambition,
and they already feared him.

I thought at one time I was prejudiced
against him, because I had been the chance
instrument of bringing him to the place,
and because his presence constantly reminded
me of a gross act of carelessness, that had
brought down upon me the only rebuke I ever
received from my employers. But I found
out too well afterwards, that my estimate of
his character was correctmore correct than
that of my fellow-clerks, many of whom
were superior to me in education and
position, though not in discernment.

My constant occupationwhen I was not
actively employed in the duties of the office
was watching Michael Armstrong; and I
soon convinced myself, that everything he
did was the result of deep, quick, keen, and
selfish calculation. I felt that the bringing
back of the letter was not the result of any
impulse of honesty, but of a conviction that it
was safer and more profitable to do so,
coupled with a determination to make the
most of his seeming virtue. What the elder
Mr. Fordyce gave him, I never knew; but
I judge from his liberal character that it
was something considerable; and I know
that when Michael Armstrong took his place
in our counting-house, he was only doing
that which he had willed to do from the
first moment that he had opened the lost
letter, and ascertained the firm from whom
it was sent. There was, at times, something
fearfully, awfully fascinating in watching
the silent, steady working of a will like
his, and to see it breaking down in its progress
every barrier opposed against it, whether
erected by God or man; others saw it, and
watched it, like me, and were equally
dazzled and paralysed.

Michael Armstrong affected to be somewhat
deafI say affected, for I have good
reason to believe that the infirmity was put
on to aid him in developing his many
schemes. During the greater part of the
day, he acted as private secretary of the
two brothers, sitting in one corner of their
large room, by that window on the ground-
floor to the left, which is now closed up,
like all the others in that portion of the

I have said before that the firm were
often in the receipt of early and valuable
intelligence, which they used for the legitimate
purposes of their trade, but never
for speculations in the stock-market. A good
deal of our business lay in corn and sugar,
and the information that the brothers got,
enabled them to make large purchases and
sales with greater advantage. Sometimes
special messengers came with letters, sometimes
pigeon expresses, as was the custom in

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