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Eustace had never 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 was walking home that May evening he was reflecting sadly enough of 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 without some amusement. Presently, however, a boy with a bundle of unfolded Globes under his arm came rushing along, making the place hideous with his howls.
“Wonderful escape of a lady and han hinfant!” he roared. “ Account of the survivors of the Kangaroo - wonderful escape-desert island-arrival of the Magnolia with the criminals."
Eustace jumped, and instantly bought a copy of the paper, stepped into the doorway of a shop where they sold masonic jewels of every size and hue in order to read it. The very first thing that his eye fell on was an editorial paragraph.
“In another column,” ran the paragraph, “will be found a short account, telegraphed to us from Southampton just as we are going to press, of the most remarkable tale of the sea that we are acquainted with. The escape of Miss Augusta Smithers and of the little Lord Holmhurst-as we suppose that we must now call him from the ill-fated Kangaroo, and their subsequent rescue, on Kerguelen Land, by the American whaler, will certainly take rank as the most romantic incident of its kind in the recent annals of shipwreck. Miss Smithers, who will be better known to the public as the authoress of that charming book “Jemima's Vow,' which took the town by storm about a year ago, will arrive at Waterloo Station by the 5.4 train, and we shall then” Eustace read no more.
Sick and faint with an extraordinary revulsion of feeling, he leaned against the door of the masonic shop, which promptly opened in the most hospitable manner, depositing him upon his back on the floor of the establishment. In a second he was up, and had bounded out of the shop with such energy that the shopman was on the point of hallooing “ Stop thief !” It was exactly five o'clock, and he was not more than a quarter of a mile or so from Waterloo Station. A hansom was sauntering along in front of him; he sprang into it. “ Waterloo, main line," he shouted, “as hard as you can go," and in another moment he was rolling across the bridge. Five or six minutes' drive brought him to the station, to which an enormous number of people were hurrying, collected together partly by a rumor of what was going on, and partly by that magnetic contagion of excitement which runs through a London mob like fire through dry grass.
He dismissed the hansom, throwing the driver half a
crown, which, considering that half-crowns were none too plentiful with him, was a rash thing to do, and vigorously shouldered his way through the crush till he reached the spot where the carriage and pair were standing. The carriage was just beginning to
Stop!” he shouted at the top of his voice to the coachman, who pulled up again. In another moment he was alongside, and there, sweeter and more beautiful than ever, he once more saw his love.
She started at his voice, which she seemed to know, and their eyes met. Their eyes met and a great light of happiness shot into her sweet face and shone there till it was covered up and lost in the warm blush that followed.
He tried to speak, but could not. Twice he tried, and twice he failed, and meanwhile the mob shouted like anything. At last, however, he got it out“ Thank God!” he stammered, “thank God you are safe!”
For answer, she stretched out her hand and gave him one sweet look. He took it, and once more the carriage began to move on.
“Where are you to be found ?” he had the presence of mind to ask.
“At Lady Holmhurst's. Come tomorrow morning; I have something to tell you,” she answered, and in another minute the carriage was gone, leaving him standing there in a condition of mind which really “can be better imagined than described.”
EUSTACE could never quite remember how he got through the evening of that eventful day. Everything connected with it seemed hazy to him. As, however, fortunately for the reader of this history, we are not altogether dependent on the memory of a young man in love, which is always a treacherous thing to deal with, having other and exclusive sources of information, we may as well fill the gap. First of all he went to his club and seized a “Red-book,” in which he discovered that Lord Holmhurst's, or, rather, Lady Holmhurst's, London house was in Hanover Square. Then he walked to his rooms in one of the little side-streets opening out of the Strand, and went through the form of eating some dinner; after which a terrible fit of restlessness got possession of him, and he started out walking. For three solid hours did that young man walk, which was, no doubt, a good thing for him, for one never gets enough exercise in London; and at the end of that time, having already been to Hammersmith and back, he found himself gravitating towards Hanover Square. Once there, he had little difficulty in finding the number. There was a light in the drawing-room floor, and, the night being warm, one