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“Jemima's Vow,” thereby, somewhat against his will, swelling the gains of Meeson's to the extent of several shillings. Now“ Jemima's Vow,” though simple and homely, was a most striking and powerful book, which fully deserved the reputation that it had gained, and it affected Eustace—who was in so much different from most young men of his age that he really did know the difference between good work and bad — more strongly than he would have liked to own. Indeed, at the termination of the story, what between the beauty of Augusta's pages, the memory of Augusta's eyes, and the knowledge of Augusta's wrongs, Mr. Eustace Meeson began to feel very much as though he had fallen in love. Accordingly, he went out walking, and, meeting a clerk whom he had known in the Meeson establishment-one of those who had been discharged on the same day as himself - he obtained from him Miss Smithers's address, and began to reflect as to whether or not he should call upon her. Unable to make up his mind, he continued his walk till he reached the quiet street where Augusta lived, and, suddenly perceiving the house of which the clerk had told him, yielded to temptation and rang.
The door was answered by the maid-of-all-work, who looked at him a little curiously, but said that Miss
a Smithers was in, and then conducted him to a door which was half open, and left him in that kindly and agreeable fashion that maids-of-all-work have. Eustace was perplexed, and, looking through the door to see if any one was in the room, discovered Augusta
5. If you
herself, dressed in some dark material, seated in a chair, her hands folded on her lap, her pale face set like a stone, and her eyes gazing into vacancy. He paused, wondering what could be the matter, and as he did so his umbrella slipped from his hand, making a noise that rendered it necessary for him to declare himself.
Augusta rose as he advanced, and looked at him with a puzzled air, as though she were striving to recall his name or where she had met him.
“I beg your pardon,” he stammered, “I must introduce myself, as the girl has deserted me; I am Eustace Meeson.”
Augusta's face hardened at the name. have come to me from Messrs. Meeson & Co.-" sho said quickly, and then broke off, as though struck by some new idea.
“Indeed, no,” said Eustace. “I have nothing in common with Messrs. Meeson now, except my name; and I have only come to tell you how sorry I was to see you treated as you were by my uncle. You remember, I was in the office.”
Yes,” she said, with a suspicion of a blush, “I remember you were very kind.”
“Well, you see,” he went on, “I had a great row with my uncle after that, and it ended in his turning me out of the place, bag and baggage, and informing me that he was going to cut me off with a shilling, which,” he added, reflectively, “ he has probably done by now."
“Do I understand you, Mr. Meeson, to mean that you quarrelled with your uncle about me and my book ?"
“Yes; that is so," he said.
“It was very chivalrous of you,” she answered, looking at him with a new-born curiosity. Augusta was not accustomed to find knights-errant thus prepared, at such cost to themselves, to break a lance in her
Least of all was she prepared to find that knight bearing the hateful crest of Meeson—if, indeed, Meeson had a crest.
“I ought to apologize,” she went on presently, after an awkward pause," for making such a scene in the office, but I wanted money so dreadfully, and it was so hard to be refused. But it does not matter now. It is all done with."
There was a dull, hopeless ring about her voice that awoke his curiosity. For what could she have wanted the money, and why did she no longer want it ?
“I am sorry,” he said. “Will you tell me what you wanted it so much for ?"
She looked at him, and then, acting upon impulse rather than reflection, said, in a low voice,
“If you like I will show you."
He bowed, wondering what was coming next. Rising from her chair, Augusta led the way to a door which opened out of the sitting-room, and gently turned the handle and entered, Eustace following her. The room was a small bedroom, of which the faded calico blind had been pulled down; as it happened, however, the sunlight, such as it was, beat full upon the blind, and came through it in yellow bars. They fell upon the furniture of the bare little room; they fell upon the iron bedstead, and upon something lying on it, which he did not at first notice, because it was covered with a sheet.
Augusta walked up to the bed, and gently lifted the sheet, revealing the sweet face, fringed round about with golden hair, of little Jeannie, in her coffin.
Eustace gave an exclamation, and started back violently. He had not been prepared for such a sight; indeed, it was the first such sight that he had ever seen, and it shocked him beyond words. Augusta, familiarized as she was herself with the companionship of this beauteous clay-cold Terror, had forgotten that, suddenly and without warning, to bring the living into the presence of the dead is not the wisest or the kindest thing to do. For, to the living, more especially to the young, the sight of death is horrible. It is such a fearsome comment on their health and strength. Youth and strength are merry; but who can be merry with yon dead thing in the upper chamber? Take it away! thrust it underground! it is an insult to us; it reminds us that we, too, die like others. What business has its pallor to show itself against our ruddy cheeks ?
“I beg your pardon,” whispered Augusta, realizing something of all this in a flash, “I forgot; you do not know-you must be shocked- Forgive me!"
“Who is it?" he said, gasping to get back bis breath.
“My sister,” she answered. “It was to try and save her life that I wanted the money. When I told her that I could not get it, she gave up and died. Your uncle killed her. Come.”
Greatly shocked, he followed her back into the sitting-room, and then—as soon as he got his composure -apologized for having intruded himself upon her in such an hour of desolation.
“I am glad to see you,” she said, simply ; "I have seen nobody except the doctor once, and the undertaker twice. It is dreadful to sit alone hour after hour face to face with the irretrievable. If I had not been so foolish as to enter into that agreement with Messrs. Meeson, I could have got the money by selling my new book easily enough; and I should have been able to take Jeannie abroad, and I believe that she would have lived—at least I hoped so.
But now it is finished, and cannot be helped.”
"I wish I had known," blundered Eustace. "I could have lent you the money. I have a hundred and fifty pounds."
“You are very good,” she answered, gently; " but it is no use talking about it now, it is finished.”
Then Eustace rose and went away; and it was not till he found himself in the street that he remembered that he had never asked Augusta what her plans were. Indeed, the sight of poor Jeannie had put everything else out of his head. However, he consoled himself with the reflection that he could call again a week or ten days after the funeral.