Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

would take twenty-six and a fraction per cent., and the author would take sixty-four per cent."

And here an interruption occurred. It came from No. 1, who could no longer restrain his disgust.

“I'll resign,” he said; “I'll resign! Meeson's content with ten per cent., when an author-a mere author-gets sixty! It's shameful-shameful!"

“If you choose to resign, you can,” said Eustace, sharply, “but I advise you to take time to think it over. Gentlemen,” went on Eustace, “I dare say that this seems a great change to you, but I may as well say at once that I am no wild philanthropist. I expect to make it pay, and pay well. To begin with, I shall never undertake any work that I do not think will pay—that is, without an adequate guarantee, or in the capacity of a simple agent; and my own ten per cent. will be the first charge on the profits; then the author's ten. Of course, if I speculate in a book, and buy it out and out, subject to the risks, the case will be different. But with a net ten per cent. certain, I am, like people in any other line of business, quite prepared to be satisfied; and, upon those terms, I expect to become the publisher of all the best writers in England, and I also expect that any good writer will in future be able to make a handsome income out of his work. Further, it strikes me that you will most of you find yourselves better off at the end of the year than you do at present.” (Cheers.) “One or two more matters I must touch on. First and foremost the Hutches, which I consider a scandal to a

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

great institution like this, will be abolished”—(Shouts of joy from the tame authors)—" and a handsome row of brick chambers erected in their place, and, further, their occupants will in future receive a very considerable permanent addition to their salaries.” (Renewed and delirious cheering). “Lastly, I will do away with this system—this horrid system-of calling men by number, as though they were convicts instead of free Englishmen. Henceforth everybody in this establishment will be known by his own name.” (Loud cheers.)

“ And now one thing more: I hope to see you all at dinner at Pompadour Hall this day next week, when we will christen our new scheme and the new firm, which, however, in the future as in the past, will be known as Meeson & Co., for, as we are all to share in the profits of our undertaking, I consider that we shall still be a company, and I hope a prosperous and an honest company in the truest sense of the word.” And then, amidst a burst of prolonged and rapturous cheering, Eustace and his wife bowed, and were escorted out to the carriage that was waiting to drive them to Pompadour Hall.

In half an hour's time they were re-entering the palatial gates from which, less than a year before, Eustace had been driven forth to seek his fortune. There, on either side, were drawn up the long lines of menials, gorgeous with plush and powder (for Mr. Meeson's servants had never been discharged), and there was the fat butler, Johnson, at their head, the same who had given his farewell message to his uncle.

“Good gracious !” said Augusta, glancing up the marble steps, “there are six of those great footmen. What on earth shall I do with them all ?"

“Sack them,” said Eustace, abruptly; "the sight of those overfed brutes makes me sick !"

And then they were bowed in—and under the close scrutiny of many pairs of eyes wandered off with what dignity they could command to dress for dinner.

In due course they found themselves at dinner, and such a dinner! It took an hour and twenty minutes to get through, or rather the six footmen took an hour and twenty minutes to carry the silver dishes in and out. Never since their marriage had Eustace and Augusta felt so miserable.

“I don't think that I like being so rich,” said Augusta, rising and coming down the long table to her husband, when at last Johnson had softly closed the door. “It oppresses me!" “So it does me," said Eustace; "and I tell you

what it is, Gussie,” he went on, drawing her on to his knee; “I won't stand having all those infernal fellows hanging round me. I shall sell this place, and go in for something quieter.”

And at that moment there came a dreadful diversion. Suddenly, and without the slightest warning, the doors at either end of the room opened. Through the one came two enormous footmen laden with coffee and cream, etc., and through the other Johnson and another powdered monster bearing cognac and other liqueurs. And there was Augusta sitting on Eustace's knee, ab

[ocr errors]

solutely too paralyzed to stir. Just as the men came up she struggled off somehow, and stood looking like an idiot, while Eustace colored to his eyes. Indeed, the only people who showed no confusion were those magnificent menials, who never turned a single powdered hair, but went through their solemn rites with perfectly unabashed countenances.

“I can't stand this,” said Augusta, feebly, when they had at length departed. “I am going to bed; I feel quite faint.”

“ All right,” said Eustace;“I think that it is the best thing to do in this comfortless shop. Confound that fellow Short, why couldn't he come and dine? I wonder if there is any place where one could go to smoke a pipe, or, rather, a cigar-I suppose those fellows would despise me if I smoked a pipe. There was no smoking allowed here in my uncle's time, so I used to smoke in the housekeeper's room; but I can't do that now,

Why don't you smoke here ?—the room is so big it would not smell,” said Augusta.

“Oh, hang it all, no," said Eustace; "think of the velvet curtains. I can't sit and smoke by myself in a room fifty feet by thirty; I should get the blues. No, I shall come up-stairs, too, and smoke there."

And he did.

Early, very early in the morning, Augusta woke, got up, and put on a dressing-gown.

The light was streaming through the rich gold cloth curtains, some of which she had drawn. It lit upon the ewers, made of solid silver, on the fine lace hang

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ings of the bed, and the priceless inlaid furniture, and played round the faces of the cupids on the frescoed ceiling. Augusta stared at it all, and then thought of the late master of this untold magnificence as he lay dying in a miserable but in Kerguelen Land. What a contrast was here!

“Eustace,” she said to her sleeping spouse,“ wake up, I want to say something to you."

“Eh! what's the matter?” said Eustace, yawning.

“Eustace, we are too rich—we ought to do something with all this money.”

“ All right,” said Eustace, “I'm agreeable. What

6 do you want to do?” "

“I want to give away a good sum-say, two hundred thousand, that isn't much out of all you have—to

— found an institution for broken-down authors."

“All right,” said Eustace; "only you must see about it, I can't be bothered. By the way,” he added, waking up a little, “you remember what the old boy told you when he was dying? I think that starving authors who have published with Meeson's ought to have the first right of election."

“I think so, too,” said Augusta, and she went to the buhl writing-table to work out that scheme on paper which, as the public is aware, is now about to prove such a boon to the world of scribblers.

“I say, Gussie !" suddenly said her husband. “I've just had a dream.

“Well !” she said, sharply, for she was busy with her scheme; "what is it?"

« ZurückWeiter »