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about two millions sterling, which, perhaps, might incline his lordship to proceed very carefully in allowing probate to issue.
• The President: 'Well, the amount of the property has got nothing to do with the principles on which the court acts with regard to the presumption of death, Mr. Fiddlestick.'
"Quite so, my lord, and I think that in this case your lordship will be satisfied that there is no reason why probate should not issue. It is, humanly speaking, impossible that Mr. Meeson can have escaped the general destruction.'
The President: 'Have you any affidavit from anybody who saw Mr. Meeson in the water ?'
“ “No, my lord; I have an affidavit from a sailor named Okers, the only man who was picked up in the water after the Kangaroo foundered, which states that he believes that he saw Mr. Meeson spring from the ship into the water, but the affidavit does not carry the matter further. He cannot swear that it was Mr. Meeson,'
“The President: 'Well, I think that that will do. The court is necessarily adverse to allowing the presumption of death, except on evidence of the most satisfactory nature. Still, considering that nearly four months have now passed since the foundering of the Kangaroo under circumstances which make it exceedingly improlable that there were any other survivors, I think that it may fairly presume that Mr. Meeson shared the fate of the other passengers.'
“Mr. Fiddlestick: The death to be presumed from the 18th of December ?
“The President: 'Yes, from the eighteenth.'
Augusta put down the paper with a gasp. There was she, safe and sound, with the true last will of Mr. Meeson tattooed upon her own shoulders; and “probate had issued ”—whatever that mysterious formula might mean-to another will, not the real last will. It meant (as she in her ignorance supposed) that her will was no good, that she had endured that abomina
ble tattooing to no purpose, and was to no purpose
EUSTACE BUYS A PAPER.
In 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 train. 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, 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 there, 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 were 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, and with a mind filled with those idle and somewhat confused odds and ends of speculation with which most brainworkers 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 had departed, 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 heaviest, 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.