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“But how am I going to live in a cupboard, or in an iron safe with a lot of wills?” asked Augusta, feeling very cross indeed.
"I don't know, I am sure," said Eustace; "Mr. John Short says that that is a matter which the learned Doctor will have to settle. His own opinion is that the learned Doctor-confound him!—will order that you should accompany him about wherever he goes till the trial comes off; for, you see, in that way you would never be out of the custody of an officer of the Court. But,” went on Eustace gloomily, "all I can tell him is, if he makes that order, and takes you about with him, he will have to take me too."
“Why?” said Augusta.
“Why? Because I don't trust him—that's why. Old? Oh yes; I dare say he is old. And, besides, just think: this learned gentleman has practised for twenty years in the Divorce Court? Now, I ask you, what can you expect from a gentleman, however learned, who has practised for twenty years in the Divorce Court? I know him," went on Eustace vindictively—“I know him. He will fall in love with
Why, he would be an old duffer if he didn't."
“Really,” said Augusta, bursting out laughing, "you are too ridiculous, Eustace.”
“I don't know about being ridiculous, Augusta; but if
you think I am going to let you be marched about by that learned Doctor without my being there to look after you, you are mistaken. Why, of course he would
fall in love with you, or some of his clerks would; nobody could be near you for a couple of days without doing so."
“Do you think so?” said Augusta, looking at him very sweetly.
“Yes, I do," he answered; and thus the conversation came to an end, and was not resumed till dinnertime.
On the following morning at eleven o'clock, Eustace, who had managed to get a few days' leave from his employers, arrived with Mr. John Short to take Augusta and Lady Holmhurst—who was going to chaperon her --to Somerset House, whither, notwithstanding her objections of the previous day, she had at last consented
Mr. Short was introduced, and much impressed both the ladies by the extraordinary air of learning and command which was stamped upon his countenance. He wanted to inspect the will at once; but Augusta struck at this, saying that it would be quite enough to have her neck stared at once that day. With a sigh and a shake of the head at her unreasonableness, Mr. John Short submitted; and then the carriage came round, and they were all driven off to Somerset House. Presently they were there, and after threading innumerable chilly passages, reached a dismal room with an almanack, a dirty deal table, and a few chairs in it, wherein were congregated several solicitors' clerks, waiting their turn to appear before the Registrar. Here they waited for half-an-hour or more, to Augusta's considerable discomfort, for she soon found that she was an object of curiosity and closest attention to the solitors' clerks, who never took their eyes off her. Presently she discovered the reason, for having remarkably quick ears, she overheard one of the clerks, a callow little man with yellow hair and an enormous diamond pin, whose appearance somehow reminded her of a new-born chicken, tell another, who was evidently of the Jewish faith, that she (Augusta) was the respondent in the famous divorce case of Jones v. Jones, and was going to appear before the Registrar to submit herself to cross-examination in some matter connected with a grant of alimony. Now, as all London was talking about the alleged iniquities of the Mrs. Jones in question, whose moral turpitude was only equalled by her beauty, Augusta did not feel best pleased, although she perceived that she instantly became an object of heartfelt admiration to the clerks.
Presently, however, somebody poked his head through the door, which he opened just wide enough to admit it, and bawling out
“Short, re Meeson,” vanished as abruptly as he had
“Now, Lady Holmhurst, if you please," said Mr. John Short, “allow me to show the
will kindly follow with the will—this way, please.”
In another minute, the unfortunate "will" found herself in a large and loftly room, at the top of which, with his back to the light, sat a most agreeable-looking middle-aged gentleman, who, as they advanced, rose with a politeness that one does not generally expect from officials on a fixed salary, and bowing, asked them to be seated.
“Well, what can I do for you? Mr.-ah! Mr.”— and he put on his eye-glasses and referred to his notes _"Mr. Short—you wish to file a will, I understand; and there are peculiar circumstances of some sort in the case?”
“Yes, sir; there are," said Mr. John Short, with much meaning. “The will to be filed in the Registry is the last true will of Jonathan Meeson, of Pompadour Hall, in the county of Warwick, and the property concerned amounts to about two millions. Upon last motion day, the death of Jonathan Meeson, who was supposed to have sunk in the Kangaroo, was allowed to be presumed, and probate has been taken out. As a matter of fact, however, the said Jonathan Meeson perished in Kerguelen Land some days after the shipwreck, and before he died he duly executed a fresh will in favour of his nephew, Eustace H. Meeson, the gentleman before you. Miss Augusta Smithers---"
“What,” said the learned Registrar, “is this Miss Smithers, whom we have been reading so much about lately—the Kerguelen Land heroine?”
“Yes; I am Miss Smithers,” she said, with a little blush; "and this is Lady Holmhurst, whose husband—” and she checked herself,
“It gives me much pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Smithers,” said the learned Doctor, courteously shaking hands, and bowing to Lady Holmhurstproceedings which Eustace watched with the jaundiced eye of suspicion. "He's beginning already," said that ardent lover to himself. “I knew how it would be. Trust my Gus into his custody?-never! I had rather be committed for contempt."
“The best thing that I can do, sir,” went on John Short impatiently, for, to his severe eye, these interruptions were not seemly, “will be to at once offer you inspection of the document, which, I may state, is of an unusual character," and he looked at Augusta, who, poor girl, coloured to the eyes.
“Quite so, quite so," said the learned Registrar. "Well, has Miss Smithers got the will? Perhaps she will produce it.”
Miss Smithers is the will,” said Mr. John Short.
“Oh--I am afraid that I do not quite understand _"
“To be more precise, sir, the will is tattooed on Miss Smithers.”
• What.”” almost shouted the learned Doctor, literally bounding from his chair.
“The will is tattooed upon Miss Smithers,” continued Mr. John Short, in a perfectly unmoved tone; "and it is now my duty to offer you inspection of the document, and to take your instructions as to how you propose to file it in the Registry-