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EUSTACE CONSULTS A LAWYER.
AUGUSTA was leaning against the marble mantelpiece-indeed, one of her arms was resting upon it, for she was a tall woman. Perhaps she, too, felt that there was something in the air; at any rate, she turned away her head, and began to play with a bronze Japanese lobster which adorned the mantelpiece.
"Now for it," said Eustace to himself, drawing a long breath, to try and steady the violent pulsation of his heart.
"I don't know what to say to you, Miss Smithers," he began.
"Best say nothing more about it," she put in, quickly. "I did it, and I am glad that I did it. What do a few marks matter if a great wrong is prevented thereby? I am not ever likely to have to go to court. Besides, Mr. Meeson, there is another thing: it was through me that you lost your inheritance; it is only right that I should try to be the means of bringing it back to you."
She dropped her head again, and once more began to play with the bronze lobster, holding her arm in such a fashion that Eustace could not see her face. But if he could not see her face she could see his in
the glass, and narrowly observed its every change, which, on the whole, though natural, was rather mean of her.
Poor Eustace grew pale and paler yet, till his handsome countenance grew positively ghastly. It is wonderful how frightened young men are the first time that they propose. It wears off afterwards-with practice one gets accustomed to anything.
"Miss Smithers-Augusta," he gasped, "I want to say something to you!" and he stopped dead.
"Yes, Mr. Meeson," she answered, cheerfully, “what is it?"
"I want to tell you-" and again he hesitated. "What you are going to do about the will?" suggested Augusta.
"No-no; nothing about the will-please don't laugh at me and put me off."
She looked up innocently-as much as to say that she never dreamed of doing either of these things. She had a lovely face, and the glance of the gray eyes quite broke down the barrier of his fears.
"Oh, Augusta, Augusta," he said, "don't you understand? I love you! I love you! No woman was ever loved before as I love you. I fell in love with you the very first time I saw you in the office at Meeson's, when I had the row with my uncle about you; and ever since then I have got deeper and deeper in love with you. When I thought that you were drowned it nearly broke my heart, and often and often I wished that I were dead too!"
It was Augusta's turn to be disturbed now, for, though a lady's composure will stand her in good stead up to the very verge of an affair of this sort, it generally breaks down in medias res. Anyhow, she certainly dropped her eyes and colored to her hair, while her breast began to heave tumultuously.
"Do you know, Mr. Meeson," she said at last, without daring to look up at his imploring face," that this is only the fourth time that we have seen each other, including yesterday?"
"Yes, I know," he said; "but don't refuse me on that account; you can see me as often as you like". (this was generous of Master Eustace)—“ and really I know you better than you think. I should think that I have read each of your books twenty times."
This was a happy stroke; for, however free from vanity a person may be, it is not in the nature of a young woman to hear that somebody has read her book twenty times without feeling pleased.
"I am not my books," said Augusta.
"No; but your books are part of you," he answered, "and I have learned more about your real self through them than I should have done if I had seen you a hundred times instead of four."
Augusta slowly raised her gray eyes till they met his own, and looked at him as though she were searching out his soul, and the memory of that long, sweet look is with him yet.
He said no more, nor had she any words; but, somehow, nearer and nearer they drew one to the other,
till his arms were around her, and his lips were pressed upon her lips. Happy man and happy girl! they will live to find that life has joys (for those who are good and are well off), but that it has no joy so holy and so complete as that which they were now experiencing— the first kiss of true and honest love.
A little while afterwards the butler came in in a horribly sudden manner, and found Augusta and Eustace, the one very red and the other very pale, standing suspiciously close to each other. But he was a very well-trained butler and a man of experience, who had seen much and guessed more; and he looked innocent as a babe unborn.
Just then, too, Lady Holmhurst came in again and looked at the pair of them with an amusing twinkle in her eye. Lady Holmhurst, like her butler, was also a person of experience.
"Won't you come into the drawing-room?" she said. And they did, looking rather sheepish.
And there Eustace made a clean breast of it, announcing that they were engaged to be married. And although this was somewhat of an assumption, seeing that no actual words of troth had passed between them, Augusta stood there, never offering a word in contradiction.
"Well, Mr. Meeson," said Lady Holmhurst, "I think that you are the luckiest man of my acquaintance, for Augusta is not only one of the sweetest and loveliest girls that I have ever met, she is also the bravest and the cleverest. You will have to look out, Mr.
Meeson, or you will be known as the husband of the great Augusta Meeson."
"I will take the risk," he answered, humbly. "I know that Augusta has more brains in her little finger than I have in my whole body. I don't know how she can look at a fellow like me."
"Dear me, how humble we are!" said Lady Holmhurst. "Well, that is the way of men before marriage. And now, as Augusta carries both your fortunes on her back as well as in her face and brain, I venture to suggest that you had better go and see a lawyer about the matter; that is, if you have quite finished your little talk. I suppose that you will come and dine with us, Mr. Meeson, and if you like to come a little early, say half-past six, I dare say that Augusta will arrange to be in, to hear what you have found out about this will, you know. And now--au revoir."
"I think that that is a very nice young man, my dear," said Lady Holmhurst, as soon as Eustace had bowed himself out. "It was rather audacious of him to propose to you the fourth time that he set eyes upon you; but I think that audacity is, on the whole, a good quality in the male sex. Another thing is, that if that will is worth anything he will be one of the wealthiest men in the whole of England; so, taking it altogether, I think that I may congratulate you, my dear. And now I suppose that you have been in love with this young man all along. I guessed as much when I saw your face as he ran up to the carriage yesterday, and I was sure of it when I heard about the