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“Oh, not at all, Mr. Meeson,” said Lady Holmhurst. “Won't you have a cup of tea? Augusta, give Mr. Meeson a cup of tea.”
He took the tea, which he did not want in the least, and then there came an awkward silence. Nobody seemed to know how to begin the conversation.
“How did you find the house, Mr. Meeson ?" said Lady Holmhurst, at last.
“Miss Smithers gave you no address, and there are two Lady Holmhursts—my mother-in-law and myself.”
“Oh, I looked it out, and then I walked here last night, and saw you both sitting at the window.”
“Indeed !” said Lady Holmhurst. “ And why did you not come in?
You might have helped to protect Miss Smithers from the reporters.'
“I don't know,” he answered, confusedly. “I did not like to; and, besides, a policeman thought I was a suspicious character and told me to move on."
“Dear me, Mr. Meeson, you must have been having a good look at us."
Here Augusta interposed, fearing lest her admirerfor, with an unerring instinct, she now guessed how matters stood — should say something foolish. А young man who is capable of standing to stare at a house in Hanover Square is, she thought, evidently capable of anything.
“I was so surprised to see you yesterday,” she said. “How did you know that we were coming ?"
Eustace told her that he had seen it in the Globe. “I am sure you cannot have been so surprised as I
was,” he went on. “I had made sure that
you were drowned. I went up to Birmingham to call on you after you had gone, and found that you had vanished
, and left no address. The maid-servant declared that you had sailed in a ship called the Conger Eel, which I afterwards found out was the Kangaroo. And then she went down; and after a long time they published a full list of the passengers, and your name was not among them, and I thought that after all you might have got off the ship, or something. Then, some days afterwards, came a telegraph from Albany, in Australia, giving the names of Lady Holmhurst and the others who were saved, and specially mentioning “Miss Smithers, the novelist,' and Lord Holmhurst as being among the drowned, and that is how the dreadful suspense came to an end. It was awful, I can tell you."
Both of the young women looked at Eustace's face and saw that there was no mistaking the real nature of the trial through which he had passed. So real was it that it never seemed to occur to him that there was anything unusual in his expressing such intense interest in the affairs of a young lady with whom he was outwardly, at any rate, on the terms of merest acquaintance.
“ It was very kind of you to think so much about me,” said Augusta, gently. “I had no idea that you would call again, or I would have left word where I was going.”
“Well, thank God you are safe and sound, at any rate,” answered Eustace; and then, with a sudden
burst of anxiety, “You are not going back to New Zealand just yet, are you?
?” “I don't know. I am rather sick of the sea just now."
No, indeed, she is not,” said Lady Holmhurst; “she is going to stop with me and Dick. Miss Smithers saved Dick's life, you know, when the nurse, poor thing, had run away. And now, dear, you had better tell Mr. Meeson about the will."
“The will. What will ?” asked Eustace. “ Listen, and you will hear.”
And Eustace did listen with open eyes and ears while Augusta, getting over her shyness as best she might, told the whole story of his uncle's death, and of the way in which he had communicated his testamentary wishes.
“And do you mean to tell me,” said Eustace, astounded, “that you allowed him to have his confounded will tattooed upon your shoulders ?”
“Yes,” answered Augusta, “I did; and, what is more, Mr. Meeson, I think that you ought to be very much obliged to me; for I dare say that I shall often be sorry for it.”
“I am very much obliged,” answered Eustace; “I had no right to expect such a thing; and, in short, I do not know what to say. I should never have thought that any woman was capable of such a sacrifice for—for a comparative stranger."
Then came another awkward pause. “Well, Mr. Meeson,” said Augusta, at last rising
brusquely from her chair, “ the document belongs to you, and so I suppose that you had better see it. Not that I think that it will be of much use to you, however, as I see that “probate has been allowed to issue, whatever that may mean, of Mr. Meeson's other will."
“I do not know that that will matter," said Eustace, "as I heard a friend of mine, Mr. Short, who is a barrister, talk about some case the other day in which probate was revoked on the production of a subsequent will."
“ Indeed!” answered Augusta, “I am very glad to hear that. Then, perhaps, after all, I have been tattooed to some purpose. Well; I suppose you had better see it," and with a gesture that was half shy and half defiant she drew the lace shawl from her shoulders, and turned her back towards him so that he might see what was inscribed across its whiteness.
Eustace stared at the broad line of letters which, with the signatures written underneath, might mean a matter of two millions of money to him, and then he stared at the beautiful shoulders on which the words were indelibly impressed.
“ Thank you,” he said at last, and taking up the lace shawl he threw it over her again.
“ If you will excuse me for a few minutes, Mr. Meeson,” interrupted Lady Holmhurst at this point; “I have to go to see about the dinner,” and before Augusta could interfere she had left the room.
Eustace closed the door behind her, and turned, feeling instinctively that a great crisis in his fortunes