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know, Miss Smithers? It never will be missed, and it is so very important." Augusta blushed, and no wonder.
“I am sorry to say I have nothing of the sort about me, Mr. Meeson -nothing except flannel," she said. "I got up in the middle of the night before the collision, and there was no light in the cabin, and I put on whatever came first, meaning to come back and dress afterwards when it got light.”
“Not a cuff or a collar? Haven't you got a cuff or a collar?” he said desperately, catching at a last straw of hope.
Augusta shook her head sadly.
“Then there is an end of it!" groaned Mr. Meeson. “Eustace must lose the money. Poor lad! poor lad! I have behaved very badly to him."
Augusta stood still, racking her brain for some expedient, for she was determined that Eustace Meeson should not lose the chance of that colossal fortune if she could help it. It was but a poor chance at the best, for Mr. Meeson might not be dying, after all. And if he did die, it was probable that his fate would be their fate also, and no record would remain of them or of Mr. Meeson's testamentary wishes. As things looked at present, there was every prospect of their all perishing miserably on that desolate shore.
Just then the sailor Bill, who had been up to the flag-staff on the rock on the chance of catching sight of some passing vessel, walked past. His flannel shirtsleeves were rolled up to the elbows of his brawny arms, and as he stopped to speak to Augusta she noticed something that made her start, and gave her
“There ain't nothing to be seen," said the man roughly; "and it's my belief that there won't be neither. Here we are, and here we stops till we dies and rots."
“Ah, I hope not,” said Augusta. "By the way, Mr. Bill, will you let me look at the tattoo on your arm?”
“Certainly, Miss,” said Bill, with alacrity, holding his great arm within an inch of her nose. covered with various tattoos: flags, ships, and what not, in the middle of which, written in small letters along the side of the forearm, was the sailor's name-Bill Jones.
“Who did it, Mr. Bill?" asked Augusta.
“Who did it? Why, I did it myself. A mate of mine made me a bet that I could not tattoo my name on my own arm, so I showed him; and a poor sort of hand I should have been at tattooing if I could not."
Augusta said no more till Bill had gone on, then she spoke.
“Now, Mr. Meeson, do you see how you can make your will?” she said quietly.
“See? No," he answered, "I don't."
“Well, I do: you can tattoo it—or, rather, get the sailor to tattoo it. It need not be very long."
“Tattoo it! What on, and what with?” he asked, astonished.
“ You can have it tattooed on the back of the other sailor, Johnnie, if he will allow you; and as for material, you have some revolver cartridges; if the gunpowder is mixed with water, it would do, I should think.”
“'Pon my word,” said Mr. Meeson, "you are a wonderful woman! Whoever would have thought of such a thing except a woman? Go and ask the man Johnnie, there's a good girl, if he would mind my will being tattooed upon his back.”
"Well," said Augusta; "it's a queer sort of message; but I'll try.” Accordingly, taking little Dick by the hand, she went across to where the two sailors were sitting outside their hut, and putting on her sweetest smile, first of all asked Mr. Bill if he would mind doing a little tattooing for her. To this Mr. Bill, finding time hang heavy upon his hands, and wishing to be kept from temptation of the rum-cask, graciously assented, saying that he had seen some sharp fishbones lying about which would be the very thing, though he shook his head at the idea of using gunpowder as the medium. He said it would not do at all well, and then, as though suddenly seized by an inspiration, started off down to the shore.
Then Augusta, as gently and nicely as she could, approached the question with Johnnie, who was sitting with his back against the hut, his battered countenance wearing a peculiarly ill-favoured expression, probably owing to the fact that he was suffering from severe
pain in his head, as a result of the debauch of the previous night.
Slowly and with great difficulty, for his understanding was none of the clearest, she explained to him what was required; and that it was suggested that he should provide the necessary corpus vile upon which it was proposed that the experiment should be made. When at last he understood what it was asked that he should do, Johnnie's countenance was a sight to see, and his language more striking than correct. shot of it was, however, that he would see Mr. Meeson collectively, and Mr. Meeson's various members separately, especially his eyes, somewhere first.
Augusta retreated till his wrath had spent itself, and then once more returned to the charge.
She was sure, she said, that Mr. Johnnie would not mind witnessing the document, if anybody else could be found to submit to the pain of the tattooing. that would be necessary would be for him to touch the hand of the operator while his (Johnnie's) name was tattooed as witness to the will. “Well," he said, “I don't know how as I mind doing that, since it's you as asked me, Miss, and not that old hulks of a Meeson. I would not lift a finger to save him from 'ell, Miss, and that's a fact."
“Then that is a promise, Mr. Johnnie?” said Augusta, sweetly ignoring the garnishing with which the promise was adorned; and on Mr. Johnnie stating that he looked at it in that light, she returned to Mr.
Meeson. On her way she met Bill, carrying in his hands a loathsome-looking fish, with long feelers and a head like a parrot, in fact, a cuttle-fish.
“Now, here's luck, Miss," said Bill exultingly, “I saw this gentleman lying down on the beach there this morning. He's a cuttle, that's what he is; and I'll have his ink-bag out of him in a brace of shakes; just the ticket for tattooing, Miss, as good as the best Indian-ink-gun-powder is a fool to it."
By this time they had reached Mr. Meeson, and here the whole matter, including Johnnie's obstinate refusal to be tattooed, was explained to Bill.
“Well,” said Augusta at length, “it seems that's the only thing to be done; but the question is, how to do it? I can only suggest, Mr. Meeson, that the will should be tattooed on you."
“Oh!” said Mr. Meeson feebly, “on me! Me tattooed like a savage-tattooed with my own will!”
“It wouldn't be much use, either, governor, begging your pardon," said Bill, “that is, if you is agoing to croak, as you says; 'cause where would the will be then? We might skin you with a sharp stone, perhaps, after you've done the trick, you know," he added reflectively. “But then we have no salt, so I doubt if you'd keep; and if we set your hide in the sun, I reckon the writing would shrivel up so that all the courts of law in London could not make head nor tail of it."
Mr. Meeson groaned loudly, as well he might.