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seemed to be an angry discussion between
them. Mr. Fordyce was pointing firmly to
some white paper leaves, which shone
brightly under the condensed glare of the
shaded lamp. Both faces were covered with
a dark veil of shadow, arising from the
reflected covering of the lamp, but Michael
Armstrong's keen eyes flashed evilly, even
through the mist of that dim light. The next
moment he was behind Mr. Fordyce's chair,
with his hand firmly twisted in the folds of
the old merchant's neckcloth. There was a
short and hopeless struggle. Two arms were
thrown wildly into the air; a body fell off
the chair on to the ground; and Mr. James
Fordyce had learnt more in that instant, than
all those piles of paper would have taught
him, if he had examined them for years. He
was dead;—dead, too, without any outward
marks of violence upon his body.

Nor was this all.

Esther Barnard was sitting without a light
in the dark recess of her favourite window;—
sitting spell-bound, paralysed, parched and
speechless, gazing upon the old office window
and the green-covered lamp, under the shade
of which this terrible drama had just passed
before her eyes. She could make no sign.
The whole fearful past history of Michael
Armstrong was made clear to her as in a
mirror, although the picture was shattered
in a moment, as soon as formed. She must
have sat there the whole night through,
heedless of the calls of her sick father in the
adjoining room, to nurse whom she had
stayed away that evening from church. They
found her in the morning in the same position,
with her reason partially gone.

Michael Armstrong came in the next day,
punctually at the business hour. He
appeared even more collected than usual, for he
believed that all evidence against him was
now destroyed for ever. A rigid investigation
was instituted on the part of the creditors;
and the mind wanderings of poor
Esther Barnard were of great importance in
making out a case against him. It may be
that her sad affliction was ordained to bring
about his destruction, for I do not believe
that if she had retained her reason, she would
ever have been induced to speak one word
against him. Her heart might have broken,
but her tongue would have remained silent.
As it was, her accusations were gathered
together, bit by bit,—gathered, as I gathered
much of this story, from her lips in happy
intervals, filling up from imagination and
personal knowledge all that seemed
unconnected and obscure.

The investigation never reached the courts
of law. Michael Armstrong saw with the
old clearness of vision the inevitable result of
the chain of evidence,—saw it traced up from
speculation to forgery, from forgery to his
poisoning of Mr. Robert Fordyce, from the
poisoning to his forgery of the letter
transferring the early crime, and from the letter
to the destruction of the house and its last
surviving representative. To avoid the
expected punishment,—prepared as he always
was for every emergency,—he poisoned
himself in that private room, before our eyes.
Whether the capital, of which he had sapped
the firm, had been productive or not in his
hands, we never knew. He was never known
to acknowledge any kindred; and no one
ever acknowledged him. He died, and made
no sign; silently and sullenly, with his face
turned to the wall.

At one time I indulged in the hope that
Esther Barnard might recover, and I had
prepared a home for her, even without the
selfish desire of being rewarded with her
poor, broken heart. Her father died, and I
cherished her as a brother. Her melancholy
madness, at times, was relieved with short
lucid intervals, during which she thanked
me so touchingly and sweetly for supposed
kindnesses, that it was more than a reward.
It was my pleasure to watch for such happy
moments, patiently for days, and weeks, and
months. In one of them she died, at last, in
these arms, and I buried her in the ground
of her old church outside the gateway. Our
firm was never, in any form, restored, though
I still cling to the old place. I have seen it
sink gradually, step by step, until it can
scarcely sink lower; but it is still near
Esther. There is little happiness in growing
so very old.

The old clerk told his story truthfully and
clearly, and if there was any indistinctness
of utterance about it, it was only towards
the close. Much of it may have been the
phantom of an old man's imagination, feeding
on the tradition of a few closed, dusty
shutters; but it interested me, because it
spoke to me of a bygone time, and of persons
and things among which I love to live and


THE question as to the right way of
dealing with town sewage is a new one,
begotten of the new conditions of town
life. When our middle-aged people were
young, cesspools were a national institution.
Filth soaked into the ground under
our houses, or was dug thence periodically,
and disposed of by hand-labour for economic
purposes; baths were in less general use; a
modest water supply was enough for any
town, and it carried away with it through
the sewers into the rivers no very large
quantity of offensive refuse. But, since we
have discovered the great danger of dirt, and
have ceased to pollute the soil on which we
build our houses, we have established a new
system which is not yet complete in all its
parts. With a full water supply we seek to
wash out of any decent town the whole mass
of the filth generated in it. It shall no

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