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place. When I married, I took my wife,
Esther, to our old City home, and our one
child, little Margaret, was born there. The
child was a little blue-eyed, fair-haired thing;
and it was a pleasing sight to see her, between
two and three years of age, trotting along
the dark passages, and going carefully up the
broad oaken stairs. On one occasion she was
checked by the order of Mr. Picard for making
a noise during business hours; and, from
ten to five, she had to confine herself to her
little dingy room at the top of the house. She
was a great favourite with many of the old
childless clerks, who used to bring her
presents of fruit in the summer mornings.
Scarcely a day passed but what I stole an
hourmy dinner hourto play with her;
and, in the long summer evenings, I carried
her down to the river to watch the boats.
Sometimes, on Sundays, I took her out of the
city into the fields about Canonbury, and
carried her back again loaded with buttercups.
She was a companion to meoften-
times my only companion, with her innocent
prattle, and gentle, winning waysfor my
wife, Esther, was cold and reserved in her
manners, with settled habits, formed before
our marriage. She was an earnest Baptist,
and attended regularly three times a week, a
chapel for that persuasion, in Finsbury. My
home often looked cheerless enough, when
little Margaret had retired to bed, and my
wife's empty chair stood before me; but I
did not complainit would not have been
just for me to do sofor I knew Esther's
opinions and habits before I married her; yet
I thought I discerned, beneath the hard
sectarian crust, signs of a true, womanly, loving
heart; signs, amongst the strict faith and
stern principles, of an affection equal to my
own. I may have been mistaken in her, as
she was mistakenO how bitterly mistaken
in me! Her will was stronger than mine,
and it fretted itself silently, but incessantly, in
vain endeavours to lead me along the path
she had chosen for herself. She may have
misunderstood my resistance, as I may have
misapprehended her motives for desiring
to alter my habits and tone of thinking.
There were probably faults and errors on
both sides.

Thus we went on from day to day; Esther
going in her direction and I going in mine,
while the child acted as a gentle link that
bound us together.

About this time Mr. Askew finally retired
from business, and there was a general step
upward throughout the house: Mr. Picard
getting one degree nearer absolute authority.
The first use that he made of his new power
was to introduce an only son into the counting-
house who had not been regularly brought
up to the ranks of trade; but who had
received, since his father's entrance as a member
of the firm, a loose, hurried, crammed, half-
professional education, and who had hovered for
some time between the choice of a lawyer's office
and a doctor's consulting-room. He was a high-
spirited young man, whose training had been
of that incomplete character, which had only
served to unsteady him. He had his father's
fault of a strong, reckless will, unchecked by
anything like his father's cold, calculating
head; though tempered by a virtue that his
father never possessedan open-hearted
generosity. As he had everything to learn,
and was a troublesome pupil, he was
assigned to my care. His writing-table was
brought into my office, and I had plenty
of opportunity of judging of his character.
With all his errors and shortcomingsnot
to say vicesit was impossible not to like
him. There is always a charm about a
free, impulsive nature that carries the heart
where the judgment cannot follow.
Surrounded, as I had been for so many years, by
the restraints imposed by persons who made
me feel that they were my masters, and with
little congeniality and sympathy in my
domestic relations, I gave myself up, perhaps
too freely and unreservedly, to the influence
of young Mr. Picard's society. Although
more than ten years his senior, I held and
claimed no authority over him; his more
powerful will and bolder spirit holding me
in subjection. I screened the fact of his late
arrivals, and his frequent absences, by doing
his work for him; and, for anything that Mr.
Dobell or his father knew, he was the most
promising clerk in the house. Little
Margaret soon found him out, and took a childish
liking to him. He was never tired of playing
with her; and, seldom a week passed, that
he did not bring her something new in the
shape of toys or sweetmeats. My evenings
at home, which used to be solitary, were now
solitary no longer: either he came and kept
me company, unknown to his fatherwho
would have been indignant at his associating
with one of the ordinary clerksor (which
was most frequently the case) I accompanied
him in his evening rambles about town. The
gulf between me and Esther was greatly
widened.

Thus our lives went on in the old city
mansion, with little variety, until our child
completed her third year.

Young Mr. Picard had been absent from
the office for more than a week, and illness,
as usual, was pleaded as the cause. In about
four days more, he returned, looking,
certainly, much thinner and paler than usual.
I did not question him then as to the real
cause of his absence; for there were arrears
to work up, and he did not seem in a
communicative humour. This was on a Saturday.
On the following Monday, at about two
o'clock in the afternoon, he brought in a
cheque for five hundred pounds, drawn by
the firm upon our bankers, Messrs. Burney,
Holt, and Burney, of Lombard Street. This,
he told me, was an amount he had got his
father and Mr. Dobell to advance him for a
short period, to enter upon a little speculation

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