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“I wish to refer to the authors' agreements of the early part of last year,” said Eustace.
No. I produced them somewhat sulkily. He did not like the appearance of this determined young owner upon the scene, with his free and un-Meeson
Eustace turned them over, and while he did so, his happy wife stood by him, marvelling at the kaleidoscopic change in her circumstances. When last she had stood in that office, not a year ago, it had been as a pitiful suppliant, begging for a few pounds wherewith to try and save her sister's life, and now
Suddenly Eustace stopped his search, and drawing a document from the bundle, glanced at it. It was Augusta's agreement with Meeson & Co. for “Jemima's Vow," the agreement binding her to them for five years, which had been the cause of all her troubles, and, she firmly believed, of her little sister's death.
“There, my dear,” said Eustace to his wife, “there is a present for you. Take it!”
Augusta took the document, and having looked to see what it was, shivered. It brought the whole thing back so painfully to her mind.
“What shall I do with it?" she asked; “tear it up?"
“Yes,” he answered. “No, stop a bit;" and, taking it from her, he wrote “Cancelled” in big letters across it, signed, and dated it.
“There," he said; “now send it to be framed and
glazed, and it shall be hung here in the office, to show how they used to do business at Meeson's.”
No. I snorted, and looked at Eustace aghast. What would the young man be after next?
“Are the gentlemen assembled in the hall?” asked Eustace of him when the remaining documents were put away again.
No. I said that they were, and, accordingly, to the hall they went, wherein were gathered all the editors, sub-editors, managers, sub-managers of the various departments, clerks, and other employés, not excepting the tame authors, who, a pale and mealy regiment, had been marched up thither from the Hutches, and the tame artists with flying hair. Now they were being marshalled in lines by No. 1, who had gone on before. When Eustace, his wife, and John Short reached the top of the hall, where some chairs had been set, the whole multitude bowed, whereon he begged them to be seated-a permission of which the tame authors, who sat all day in their little wooden hutches, and sometimes a good part of the night also, did not seem to care to avail themselves of. But the tame artists, who, for the most part, had to work standing, sat down readily
“Gentlemen,” said Eustace, “first let me introduce you to my wife, Mrs. Meeson, who, in another capacity, has already-not greatly to her own profit—been connected with this establishment, having written the best work of fiction that has ever gone through our printingpresses”-(Here some of the wilder spirits cheered, and Augusta blushed and bowed)—“and who will, I hope and trust, write many even better books, which we shall have the honour of giving to the world.” (Applause.) “Also, gentlemen, let me introduce you to Mr. John Short, my solicitor, who, together with his twin brother, Mr. James Short, brought the great lawsuit in which I was engaged to a successful issue.
“And now I have to tell why I have summoned you all to meet me here. First of all, it is to say that I am now the sole owner of this business, having bought out Messrs. Addison and Roscoe"-(“And a good job too," said a voice)—"and that I hope we shall work well together; and secondly, to inform you that I am going to totally revolutionise the course of business as hitherto practised in this establishment”—(Sensation)—“having, with the assistance of Mr. Short, drawn up a scheme for that purpose. I am informed in the statement of profits, on which the purchase price of the shares of Messrs. Addison and Roscoe was calculated, that the average net profits of this house during the last ten years have amounted to forty-seven and a fraction per cent. on the capital invested. Now, I have determined that in future the net profits of any given undertaking shall be divided as follows:- Ten per cent. to the author of the book in hand, and ten per cent to the House. Then, should there be any further profit, it will be apportioned thus: one-third-of which a moiety will go towards a pension fund—to the employés of the
House, the division to be arranged on a fixed scale”. (Enormous sensation, especially among the tame authors)
"and the remainder to the author of the work. Thus, supposing that a book paid cent. per cent., I should take ten per cent., and the employés 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. and out-of-pocket expenses, 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 daresay 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
well. To begin with, I shall never undertake any work which 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
I 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 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 systemof calling men by numbers, 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 more thing: I hope to see you all at dinner at Pompadour Hall this day next week, when we will christen our 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.