« ZurückWeiter »
Less amount due to Messrs. Meeson, being one
half of net proceeds....
£ 8. d. 700
Less Commission, etc.....
3 19 0
£10 19 0
Balance due to Author, as per check herewith.... £3 1 0
Augusta looked, and then slowly crumpled up the check in her hand.
"If I understand, Mr. Meeson," she said, "you have sold the two rights of translation of my book, which you persuaded me to leave in your hands, for £14; out of which I am to receive £3 1s.?"
"Yes, Miss Smithers. Will you be so kind as to sign the receipt; the fact is that I have a good deal of business to attend to."
"No, Mr. Meeson," suddenly said Augusta, rising to her feet and looking exceedingly handsome and imposing in her anger. "No; I will not sign the receipt, and I will not take this check. And, what is more, I will not write you any more books. You have entrapped me. You have taken advantage of my ignorance and inexperience, and entrapped me so that for five years I shall be nothing but a slave to you,
and, although I am now one of the most popular writers in the country, shall be obliged to accept a sum for my books upon which I cannot live. Do you know that yesterday I was offered a thousand pounds for the copyright of a book like 'Jemima's Vow?— it's a large sum; but I have the letter. Yes, and I have the book in MS. now; and if I could publish it I should be lifted out of poverty, together with my poor little sister!" and she gave a sob.
"But," she went on, "I cannot publish it, and I will not let you have it and be treated like this; I had rather starve. I will publish nothing for five years, and I will write to the papers and say why--because I have been cheated, Mr. Meeson." "Be care
"Cheated!" thundered the great man. ful, young lady; mind what you are saying. I have a witness; Eustace, you hear, 'cheated!' Eustace, 'cheated!"
"I hear," said Eustace, grimly.
“Yes, Mr. Meeson, I said 'cheated;' and I will repeat it, whether I am locked up for it or not. Good-morning, Mr. Meeson," and she courtesied to him, and then suddenly burst into a flood of tears.
In a minute Eustace was by her side.
"Don't cry, Miss Smithers; for Heaven's sake don't! I can't bear to see it," he said.
She looked up, her beautiful gray eyes full of tears, and tried to smile.
"Thank you," she said; "I am very silly, but I am so disappointed. If you only knew There, I will
go. Thank you," and in another instant she had drawn herself up and left the room.
66 'Well," said Mr. Meeson, senior, who had been sitting at his desk with his great mouth open, apparently too much astonished to speak. "Well, there is a vixen. for you. But she'll come round. I've known them to do that sort of thing before—there are one or two down there," and he jerked his thumb in the direction where the twenty-and-five tame authors sat each like a rabbit in his little hutch and did hat-work by the yard, "who carried on like that. But they are quiet enough now-they don't show much spirit now. know how to deal with that sort of thing-half pay and a double tale of copy-that's the ticket. Why, that girl will be worth fifteen hundred a year to the house. What do you think of it, young man, eh?"
"I think," answered his nephew, on whose goodtempered face a curious look of contempt and anger had gathered, "I think that you ought to be ashamed of yourself!"
HOW EUSTACE WAS DISINHERITED.
THERE was a pause-a dreadful pause. The flash had left the cloud, but the answering thunder had not burst upon the ear. Mr. Meeson gasped. Then he took up the check which Augusta had thrown upon the table and slowly crumpled it.
“What did you say, young man ?" he said at last, in a cold, hard voice.
"I said that you ought to be ashamed of yourself," answered his nephew, standing his ground bravely; "and, what is more, I meant it!"
"Oh! Now will you be so kind as to explain exactly why you said that, and why you meant it?"
"I meant it," answered his nephew, speaking in a full, strong voice, "because that girl was right when she said that you had cheated her, and you know that she was right. I have seen the accounts of 'Jemima's Vow'-I saw them this morning—and you have already made more than a thousand pounds clear profit on the book. And then, when she comes to ask you for something over the beggarly fifty pounds which you doled out to her, you refuse, and offer her three pounds as her share of the translation rights-three pounds as against your eleven!"
"Go on," interrupted his uncle; "pray go on."
"All right; I am going. That is not all: you actually avail yourself of a disgraceful trick to entrap this unfortunate girl into an agreement, whereby she becomes a literary bond-slave for five years! As soon as you see that she has genius, you tell her that the expense of bringing out her book, and of advertising up her name, etc., etc., etc., will be very great-so great, indeed, that you cannot undertake it, unless, indeed, she agrees to let you have the first offer of everything she writes for five years to come, at somewhere about a fourth of the usual rate of a successful author's paythough, of course, you don't tell her that. You take advantage of her inexperience to bind her by this iniquitous contract, knowing that the end of it will be that you will advance her a little money and get her into your power, and then will send her down there to the Hutches, where all the spirit and originality and genius will be crushed out of her work, and she will become a hat-writer like the rest of them-for Meeson's is a strictly commercial undertaking, you know, and Meeson's public don't like genius, they like their literature dull and holy—and it's an infernal shame! that's what it is, uncle!" and the young man, whose blue eyes were by this time flashing fire, for he had worked himself up as he went along, brought his fist down with a bang upon the writing-table by way of emphasizing his words.
"Have you done?" said his uncle.
"Yes, I've done; and I hope that I have put it plain."