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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 forfor 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
had better see it. Not that I think that it will be of much use to you, however, as I see that 'probate had 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 Short, who is a barrister, talk about some case the other day in which probate was revoked on the production of a subsequent will."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 off the lace shawl, and turned her back towards him so that he might what was inscribed across it.
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.
“Thank you," he said at last, and, taking up the 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 and 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 had come. There are some men who rise to an emergency, and some who shrink from it, and the difference is that difference between the man who succeeds and the man who fails in life, and in all which makes life worth living.
Eustace belonged to the class that rises, and not to that which shrinks.
CHAPTER X V.
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 became 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 her grey 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
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 coloured 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, “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 believe 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 learnt 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 eyes till they met his own, and looked at him as though she were searching