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MY LOST HOME.

In the still hours of the night; in the evening
rest from labourwhen the twilight
shadows darken my solitary room, and often-
times in the broad glare of day, amongst the
eager busy merchants upon 'Changeit comes
before me: the picture of my lost shadowy
home. So dim and indistinct at times seems
the line that separates my past from my
present self; so dream-like seem the events
that have made me the hunted outcast which
I am, that, painful as my history is, it is a
mental relief to me to go over it step by step,
and dwell upon the faces of those who are
now lost to me for evermore.

It seems but yesterdayalthough many
years have passed awaythat I was in a
position of trust in the counting-house of Askew
Dobell, and Picard. A quaint, old, red-brick
house it was; standing in a court-yard, up a
gate-way, in a lane in the City leading down
to the river. I see it as plainly as if it stood
before me now, with the old cherubim carving
over the door-way; the green mossy stones in
the yard; the twelve half-gallon fire-buckets
hanging up, all painted with the City arms;
the long, narrow windows, with their broad,
flat, wooden frames; the dark oaken rooms,
especially the one where I used to sit, looking
out into the small, square, burial-ground
of a church, with half-a-dozen decayed,
illegible tombstones; frail memorials of old
Turkey merchants, who were born, who
lived, and who died under the shadow of
the one melancholy tree that waved before
my window; the long, dark passages, with
more fire-buckets; and the large fireplaces,
with their elaborate fluted marble mantel-
shelves and pilasters.

I entered the service of those old merchants
about the age of sixteen, fresh from the Blue-
Coat School; a raw, ungainly lad, with no
knowledge or experience of the world, and
with a strong letter of recommendation from
the head master, which procured me a junior
clerkship. Our business was conducted with
a steady tranquillityan almost holy calm
in harmony with the place; which had the
air of a sacred temple dedicated to commerce.
I rose step by step; till at last, about the age
of thirty, I attained the position of a first-
class clerk. My advance was not due to any
remarkable ability that I had displayed; nor
because I had excited the interest of any
member of the firm, for I seldom saw the
faces of my employers. It was purely the
result of a system which ordained a general
rise throughout the house when any old clerk
died, or was pensioned off. Old Mr. Askew,
the founder of the housea man, so tradition
said, who had once been a porter at the
doorway which now owned him for a master
had practically retired from business to a
similar quaint old mansion at Peckham. He
never came to the City more than twelve
times a-year, to inspect the monthly balances;
and then, he only remained about an hour.
He did not even know the names of half the
people in his employment. Mr. Dobell, the
second partner, was twenty years younger
than Mr. Askew; active, decisive, and retiring:
a man whose whole mind was devoted
to his business, and who looked upon us all
as only so many parts of a machine for carrying
out his objects. The third partner in the
firm, Mr. Picard, was a man of a very different
stamp from the other two.  At one
period he had been our managing clerk, and
he obtained his share in the business in the
same year that I entered the house. He was
of French extraction; thin, sallow, with small
grey eyes, and light sandy hair. His age, at
the time I am writing of, must have been
near fifty. Although his origin was very
obscuresome of our old clerks remembering
him walking about the Docks in an almost
shoeless statehis pride was very great, and
his harshness, sternness, and uneasy, fretful,
and ever-conscious attempts at dignity, were
a painful contrast to the quiet, off-hand
manner of Mr. Dobell, or the venerable and
dreamy calmness of old Mr. Askew. He was
a bad-hearted, cold, calculating man,—a man
with a strong, reckless will; who allowed
nothing to stand between him and his self-
interest. When he came into authority, and
had his name put up as one of the firm, his
humble relations were removed to a distance;
and a poor old Irishwoman, who had kept a
fruit-stall upon sufferance under our gateway
for many years, was swept away, because he
felt that she remembered him in the days of
his poverty.

My position and duties required me to
live in the house, and to take charge of the

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