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bag of the cuttle, had prepared a little round fragment of wood which he sharpened like a pencil by rubbing it against a stone, and had put a keen edge on to a long white fishbone that he had selected.
Now, Mr. Bill, I am ready,” said Augusta, seating herself resolutely upon a flat stone and setting her teeth.
"My word, miss; but you have a beautiful pair of shoulders!" said the sailor, contemplating the snowy expanse of skin with the eye of an artist. "I never had such a bit of material to work on afore. Hang me if it ain't almost a pity to mark 'em! Not but what high-class tattooing is an orniment to anybody, from a princess down; and in that you are fortunit, miss, for I larnt tattooing from them as can tattoo, I did."
Augusta bit her lip, and the tears came into her gray eyes. She was only a woman, and had a woman's little weakness; and, though she had never appeared in a low dress in her life, she knew that her bust was one of her greatest beauties, and was proud of it. It was hard to think that she would be marked all her life with this ridiculous will-that is, if she escaped -and, what was more, for the benefit of a young man who had no claim upon her at all.
That was what she said to herself; but as she said it, something in her told her that it was not true. Something told her that this young Mr. Eustace Meeson had a claim upon her—the highest claim that a man can have upon a woman, for the truth must out
she loved him. It seemed to have come home to her quite clearly here in this dreadful desolate place, here in the very shadow of an awful death, that she did love him, truly and deeply. And that being so, she would not have been what she was a gentle-natured, devoted woman-had she not at heart rejoiced at this opportunity of sacrifice, even though that self-sacrifice was of the hardest sort, seeing that it involved what all women hate--the endurance of a ridiculous position. For love can do all things: it can even make its votaries brave ridicule.
"Go on," she said, sharply, “and let us get it over as soon as possible."
"Very well, miss. What is it to be, old gentleman? Cut it short, you know."
'I leave all my property to Eustace H. Meeson,' that's as short as I can get it; and, if properly witnessed, I think that it will cover everything," said Mr. Meeson, with a feeble air of triumph. "Anyhow, I never heard of a will that is to carry about two millions being got into nine words before."
Bill poised his fishbone, and, next second, Augusta gave a start and a little shriek, for the operation had begun.
"Never mind, miss," said Bill, consolingly; "you'll soon get used to it."
After that Augusta set her teeth and endured in silence, though it really hurt her very much, for Bill was more careful of the artistic effect and the permanence of the work than of the feelings of the sub
ject. Fiat experimentum in corpore vili, he would have said had he been conversant with the classics, without much consideration for the corpus vilum. So he pricked and dug away with his fishbone, which he dipped continually in the cuttle-ink, and with the sharp piece of wood, till Augusta began to feel perfectly sick.
For three hours the work continued, and at the end of that time the body of the will was finished-for Bill was a rapid worker-being written in mediumsized letters right across her ivory shoulders. But the signatures yet remained to be affixed.
Bill asked her if she would like to let them stand over till the morrow; but this, although she felt faint with the pain, she declined to do. She was marked now, marked with the ineffaceable mark of Bill, so she might as well be marked to some purpose. If she put off the signing of the document till the morrow it might be too late, Mr. Meeson might be dead, Johnnie might have changed his mind, or a hundred things might happen. So she told them to go on and finish it as quickly as possible, for there was only about two hours more daylight.
Fortunately Mr. Meeson was more or less acquainted with the formalities that are necessary in the execution of a will, namely, that the testator and the two witnesses should all sign in the presence of each other. He also knew that it was sufficient, if, in cases of illness, some third person held the pen between the testator's fingers and assisted him to write his name, or even if
some one signed for the testator in his presence and by his direction; and, arguing from this knowledge, he came to the conclusion-afterwards justified in the great case of Meeson v. Addison and Anotherthat it would be sufficient if he inflicted the first prick of his signature, and then kept his hand upon Bill's while the rest was done. This, accordingly, he did, clumsily running the point of the sharp bone so deep into the unfortunate Augusta that she fairly shrieked aloud, and then keeping his hand upon the sailor's arm while he worked in the rest of the signature, “J. Meeson." When it was done, the turn of Johnnie came. Johnnie had at length aroused himself to some interest in what was going on, and had stood by watching all the time, since Mr. Meeson, having laid his finger upon Augusta's back, had solemnly declared the writing thereon to be his last will and testament. As he (Johnnie) could not tattoo, the same process was gone through with reference to his signature as in the case of Mr. Meeson. Then Bill Jones signed his own name, as the second witness to the will; and just as the light went out of the sky the document was finally executed—the date of the execution being alone omitted. Augusta got up off the flat stone where she had been seated during this torture for something like five hours, and, staggering into the hut, threw herself down upon the sail, and went off into a dead faint. It was indeed only by a very strong exercise of the will that she had kept herself from fainting long before.
The next thing she was conscious of was a dreadful smarting in her back, and on opening her eyes found that it was quite dark in the hut. So weary was she, however, that after stretching out her hand to assure herself that Dick was safe by her side, she shut her eyes again and went fast asleep. When she woke, the daylight was creeping into the damp and squalid hut, revealing the heavy form of Mr. Meeson tossing to and fro in a troubled slumber on the farther side. She got up, feeling dreadfully sore about the back; and, awaking the child, took him out to the stream of water and washed him and herself as well as she could. It was very cold outside, so cold that the child cried, and the rain-clouds were coming up fast; so she hurried back to the hut, and, together with Dick, made her breakfast off some biscuit and some roast penguin's eggs, which were not at all bad eating. She was, indeed, quite faint with hunger, having swallowed no food for many hours, and felt proportionately better after it.
Then she turned to examine the condition of Mr. Meeson. The will had been executed none too soon, for it was evident to her that he was in a very bad way indeed. His face was sunken and hectic with fever, his teeth were chattering, and his talk, though he was now awake, was quite incoherent. She tried to get him to take some food; but he would swallow nothing but water. Having done all she could for him, she went to see the sailors, and met them coming down from the flagstaff. They had evidently been at