Abbildungen der Seite

supposed) that her will was no good, that she had endured that abominable tattooing to no purpose, and was to no purpose scarred for life.

It was too much; and, in a fit of vexation, she flung the Times out of the window, and cast herself back on the cushions, feeling very much inclined to cry.




N due course the train that bore Augusta and her fortunes, timed to reach Waterloo at 5.4 P.M., rolled into the station. The train was a fast one, but the telegraph had been faster. All the evening papers had come out with accounts, more or less accurate, of their escape, and most of them had added that the two survivors would reach Waterloo by the 5.4 express. The consequence was, that when the train drew up at the platform, Augusta, on looking out, was horrified to see a dense mass of human beings being kept in check by a line of policemen.

However, the guard was holding the door open, so there was nothing for it but to get out, which she did, taking Dick by the hand, a proceeding that necessarily put her identity beyond a doubt. The moment she got her foot on to the platform, the crowd saw her, and there arose such a tremendous shout of welcome that she very nearly took refuge again in the carriage. For a moment she stood hesitating, and the crowd, seeing how sweet and beautiful she was (for the three months of sea air had

made her stouter and even more lovely), cheered again with that peculiar enthusiasm which a discerning public always shows for a pretty face. But even while she stood bewildered on the platform she heard a loud “Make way-make way there!" and saw the multitude being divided by a little knot of officials, who were escorting somebody dressed in widow's weeds.

In another second there was a cry of joy, and a sweet, pale-faced little lady had run at the child Dick, and was hugging him against her heart, and sobbing and laughing both at once.

"Oh! my boy! my boy!" cried Lady Holmhurst, for it was she, "I thought you were dead-long ago dead!" And then she turned, and, before all the people, clung about Augusta's neck and kissed her and blessed her, because she had saved her only child, and half removed the dead weight of her desolation. Whereat the crowd cheered, and wept, and yelled, and swore with excitement, and blessed their stars that they were there

to see.

And then, in a haze of noise and excitement, they were led through the cheering mob to where a carriage and pair were standing, and helped into it, Mrs. Thomas being placed on the front seat and Lady Holmhurst and Augusta on the back, the former with the gasping Dick upon her knee.

And now little Dick is out of the story.

Then another event occurred, which we must go back a little way to explain.

When Eustace Meeson had come to town, after being formally disinherited, he had managed to get a billet as Latin, French, and Old English reader in a publishing house of repute. As it happened, on this very afternoon

he was strolling down the Strand, having finished a rather stiff day's work, his mind filled with those idle and somewhat confused odds and ends of speculation with which most brain-workers will be acquainted. He looked older and paler than when we last met him, for sorrow and misfortune had laid their heavy hands upon him. When Augusta was gone, he had discovered that he was head over heels in love with her in that unfortunate way-for, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it is unfortunate-in which many men of susceptibility do occasionally fall in love in their youth,-a way that brands the heart for life in a fashion that can no more be effaced than the stamp of a hot iron can be effaced from the physical body. Such an affection-which is not altogether of the earth-will, when it overcomes a man, prove either the greatest blessing of his life or one of the most enduring curses that a malignant fate can heap upon his head. For if he achieves his desire, even though he serve his seven years, surely for him life will be robbed of half its evil. But if he lose her, either through misfortune or because he gave all this to one who did not understand the gift, or one who looked at love and on herself as a currency wherewith to buy her place and the luxury of days, then he will be of all men among the most miserable. For nothing can give him back that which has gone from him.

Eustace had seen Augusta but twice in his life; but then passion does not necessarily depend upon constant previous intercourse with its object. Love at first sight is common enough, and in this instance Eustace was not altogether dependent upon the spoken words of his adored, or on his recollection of her very palpable beauty, for he had her books. To those who know

something of the writer-sufficient, let us say, to enable him to put an approximate value on his or her sentiments, so as to form a more or less accurate guess as to when he is speaking from his own mind, when he is speaking from the mind of the puppet in hand, and when he is merely putting a case-a person's books are full of information, and bring that person into a closer and more intimate contact with the reader than any amount of personal intercourse. For whatever is best and whatever is worst in an individual will be reflected in his pages, seeing that, unless he is the poorest of hack authors, he must of necessity set down therein the images that pass across the mirrors of his heart.

Thus it seemed to Eustace, who knew "Jemima's Vow" and also her previous abortive work almost by heart, that he was very intimately acquainted with Augusta, and as he walked home that May evening, he was reflecting sadly enough on all that he had lost through that cruel shipwreck. He had lost Augusta, and, what was more, he had lost his uncle and his uncle's vast fortune. For he, too, had seen the report of the application re Meeson in the Times, and, though he knew that he was disinherited, it was a little crushing. He had lost the fortune for Augusta's sake, and now he had lost Augusta also; and he reflected, not without dismay, on the long dreary existence that stretched away before him, filled up as it were with prospective piles of Latin proofs. With a sigh he halted at the Wellington Street crossing in the Strand, which, owing to the constant stream of traffic at this point, is one of the worst in London. There was a block at the moment, as there generally is, and he stood for some minutes watching the frantic dashes of an old woman, who always tried to cross at the wrong time, not

« ZurückWeiter »