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to marry the most charming-yes, the most charming, and the most talented, and the bravest young lady that I have ever met a young lady who not only carries twenty fortunes on her face, but another fortune in her brain, and such a fortune, too! Sir"-he bowed towards Eustace
"Lovely Thais sits beside thee,
Take the goods the gods provide thee."
I salute you, as all men must salute one so supremely favoured. Humbly I salute you; humbly I pray that you may continually deserve the almost unparalleled good that it has pleased Providence to bestow upon you."
And then Eustace rose and made his speech, and a very good speech it was, considering the trying circumstances under which it was made. He told them how he had fallen in love with Augusta's sweet face the very first time that he had set eyes upon it in the office of his uncle at Birmingham. He told them what he had felt when, after getting some work in London, he had returned to Birmingham to find his lady-love flown, and of what he had endured when he heard that she was among the drowned on board the Kangaroo. Then he came to the happier day when he discovered that he had not loved her in vain, finally ending thus—
happy day of the return, and to that still
"Dr. Probate has said that I am a supremely fortunate man, and I admit the truth of his remark. I am, indeed, fortunate above my deserts, so fortunate that I feel afraid. When I turn and see my beloved wife sitting at my side, I am fearful lest I should after all be dreaming a dream, and awake to find nothing but emptiness. And then, on the other hand, is this colossal wealth, which has come to
me through her, and there again I feel afraid.
Heaven, I hope with her help to do some good with it, remembering always that it is a great trust that has been placed in my hands. And she also is a trust and a far more inestimable one, and as I deal with her so may I be dealt with here and hereafter."
Then, by an afterthought, he proposed the health of the legal twins, who single-handed had so nobly borne the brunt of the affray, and routed the Attorney-General and all his learned host.
Thereon James rose to reply in terms of heavy eloquence, and would have gone through the whole case again had not Lady Holmhurst in despair pulled him by the sleeve and told him that he must propose her health, which he did with sincerity, lightly alluding to the fact that she was a widow by describing her as being in a "discovert condition, with all the rights and responsibilities of a 'femme sole.'"
Everybody burst out laughing, including poor Lady Holmhurst herself, and James sat down, not without indignation that a giddy world should object to an exact and legal definition of the status of the individual as set out by the law.
And after that Augusta went to change her dress, and then came the hurried good-byes; and, to escape observation, they drove off in a hansom cab amidst a shower of old shoes.
There in that hansom cab we will leave them.
MEESON'S ONCE AGAIN.
MONTH had passed-a month of long, summer days, and such happiness as young people who truly love each other can get out of a honeymoon spent under the most favourable circumstances in the sweetest, sunniest spots of the Channel Islands. And now the curtain draws up for the last time in this history, where it drew up for the first-in the inner office of Meeson's huge establishment.
During the last fortnight certain communications had passed between Mr. John Short, being duly authorised thereto, and the legal representatives of Messrs. Addison & Roscoe, with the result that the interests of these gentlemen in the great publishing house had been bought up, and that Eustace Meeson was the sole owner of the vast concern, which he intended to take under his personal supervision.
Now, accompanied by John Short, whom he had appointed to the post of solicitor both of his business and private affairs, and by Augusta, he was engaged in for
mally taking over the keys from the head manager, who was known throughout the establishment as No. 1.
"I wish to refer to the authors' agreements of the early part of last year," said Eustace.
No. I produced them somewhat sulkily. He did not like the appearance of this determined young owner upon the scene, with his free and un-Meeson-like ways.
Eustace turned them over, and while he did so, his happy wife stood by him, marvelling at the kaleidoscopic change in her circumstances. When last she had stood in that office, not a year ago, it had been as a pitiful suppliant, begging for a few pounds wherewith to try and save her sister's life, and now
Suddenly Eustace stopped his search, and drawing a document from the bundle, glanced at it. It was Augusta's agreement with Meeson & Co. for "Jemima's Vow," the agreement binding her to them for five years, which had been the cause of all her troubles, and, as she firmly believed, of her little sister's death.
"There, my dear," said Eustace to his wife, "there is a present for you. Take it !"
Augusta took the document, and having looked to see what it was, shivered. It brought the whole thing back so painfully to her mind.
"What shall I do with it?" she asked; tear it up?" "Yes," he answered. "No, stop a bit;" and, taking it from her, he wrote "Cancelled" in big letters across it, signed, and dated it.
"There," he said; "now send it to be framed and glazed, and it shall be hung here in the office, to show how they used to do business at Meeson's."
No. I snorted, and looked at Eustace aghast. What would the young man be after next?
"Are the gentlemen assembled in the hall?" asked Eustace of him when the remaining documents were put away again.
No. I said that they were, and, accordingly, to the hall they went, wherein were gathered all the editors, subeditors, managers, sub-managers of the various departments, clerks, and other employés, not excepting the tame authors, who, a pale and mealy regiment, had been marched up thither from the Hutches, and the tame artists with flying hair. Now they were being marshalled in lines by No. 1, who had gone on before. When Eustace, his wife, and John Short reached the top of the hall, where some chairs had been set, the whole multitude bowed, whereon he begged them to be seated-a permission of which the tame authors, who sat all day in their little wooden hutches, and sometimes a good part of the night also, did not seem to care to avail themselves of. But the tame artists, who, for the most part, had to work standing, sat down readily.
"Gentlemen," said Eustace, "first let me introduce you to my wife, Mrs. Meeson, who, in another capacity, has already-not greatly to her own profit-been connected with this establishment, having written the best work of fiction that has ever gone through our printing-presses --(Here some of the wilder spirits cheered, and Augusta blushed and bowed)-" and who will, I hope and trust, write many even better books, which we shall have the honour of giving to the world." (Applause.) "Also, gentlemen, let me introduce you to Mr. John Short, my solicitor, who, together with his twin-brother, Mr. James Short, brought the great lawsuit in which I was engaged to a successful issue.
"And now I have to tell why I have summoned you