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the habits of both the brotherswere very
simple. He walked for two hours during
the evening, from six o'clock to eight, and
then read until nine, at which time he took a
light supper, consisting of a small roll and a
glass of milk; which was always brought to
him by Esther, who left the little tray upon
the table by the side of his book, and wished
him good night until the morning. She then
returned to Michael Armstrong, on the nights
he visited her, to sit until the clock of the
neighbouring church struck ten, at which
hour she let him out at the gate, and retired
to rest.

On the night in question, she had placed
the same simple supper ready upon her
table; and, after retiring for a few moments
to her room, to leave her hat and cloak, she
returned, and took the tray to Mr. Robert's
apartments. She did not notice Michael
Armstrong particularly before she went;
but, when she came back, she found him
standing by the open doorway, looking wildly
and restlessly into the passage. She again
asked him anxiously if he was ill, and his
answer was as before; adding, that he
thought he had heard her father's voice,
calling her name, but be had been mistaken.

They sat for some little time together
over the fire. Michael Armstrong would not
take any supper, although pressed by Esther
to do so. His mind was occupied with some
hidden thought, and he appeared as if
engaged in listening for some expected sound.
In this way passed about half an hour, when
Esther thought she heard some distant
groans, accompanied by a noise, like that
produced by a heavy body falling on the ground.
Esther started up; and Michael Armstrong,
who had heard the noise too,
immediately suggested the probable illness of her
father. Esther waited not for another word,
but ran to his apartment, to find him sleeping
calmly in his bed. On her return, a few
minutes afterwards, to the room she had just
left, she found Michael Armstrong entering
the doorway with the light. He said he had
been along the passages to make a search,
but without finding anything. He appeared
more composed, and advised her to dismiss
the matter from her mind. They sat together
more cheerfully for the next half hour, until
the ten o'clock bells sounded from the
neighbouring church, when she went with him
across the garden to the gate. The customary
kiss was given at the door, and the
customary laugh and good night received from
the old private watchman parading the
street; but Esther Barnard, as she locked
the wicket, and walked across the garden
again to her own room, felt a heavy-hearted
foreboding of some great sorrow that was
about to fall upon her. Her prayers that
night were longer than usual, and her eyes
were red with weeping before she went to

Meantime, the lamp in Mr. Robert
Fordyce's apartment (the second window
from the sun-dial) burnt dimly through the
night, and died out about the break of day.
Its master had died some hours before.

In the morning the porters opened the
place at the usual hour, and the full tide of
business again set in. One of the earliest,
but not the earliest, to arrive was Michael
Armstrong. His first inquiry was for Mr.
Robert Fordyce, who was generally in his
private room to open the letters, and give out
the keys. He had not been seen. An hour
passed, and then the inquiry was extended to
the dwelling-house. Michael Armstrong saw
Esther, and begged her to go and knock at
Mr. Robert's door. She went, slowly and
fearfully, knocked, and there was no answer.
Knocked again with the same result. The
alarm now spread, that something serious
had happened. Esther retired tremblingly
with her forebodings of the night more than,
half realised, while the clerks came up, and,
after a brief consultation, broke open the

A room with a close and slightly chemical
smell; the blinds still down; an oil-lamp
that had burnt out; a book half open upon
the table; a nearly empty tumbler that
contained milk; a roll untouched; and Mr.
Robert Fordyce, lying dead, doubled up on
the floor near a couch, the damask covering of
which he had torn and bitten. On the table,
near the tumbler was a small, screwed-up
paper, containing some of the poison from
which he had died; and near to this was a
letter directed, somewhat tremblingly, in
his own handwriting to his brother, Mr.

One of the earliest, but not the earliest in
the room, was Michael Armstrong, calm,
dignified, and collected. Though far younger
than many others, he took the lead naturally
and firmly, and no one seemed to have nerve
or inclination to dispute his authority.
Esther stood anxiously amongst the crowd at
the door looking on with her whole soul
starting through her eyes.

Michael Armstrong took up the letter
upon the table. It was unsealed. He opened
it, and read in a clear, firm voice, the short
and painful statement it contained. Mr.
Robert Fordyce confessed to his brother
that for some time he had largely
appropriated the funds of the firm to his own use
for speculations that had turned out
unsuccessful in the stock-market. Unable to
refund the money to meet the sudden
emergency that had fallen upon the house,
and fearing to see his brother again after
perpetrating such a wrong, he had resolved
to die by poison, administered by his own.

Deep silence, broken by sobs and tears,
followed the reading of this letter, for the
dead merchant was loved and respected by
all. A short summons, written by Michael
Armstrong, as I have said before, was tied to

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