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share of the translation rights--three pounds as against your eleven!”
“Go on," interrupted his uncle; “pray go on.”
"All right; I am going. That is not all: you actually avail yourself of a disgraceful trick to entrap this unfortunate girl into an agreement, whereby she becomes a literary bondslave for five years! As soon as you see that she has genius, you tell her that the expense of bringing out her book, and of advertising up her name, &c., &c., &c., will be very great—so great, indeed, that you cannot undertake it, unless, indeed, she agrees to let you have the first offer of everything she writes for five years to come, at somewhere about a fourth of the usual rate of a successful author's pay-though, of course, you don't tell her that. You take advantage of her inexperience to bind her by this iniquitous contract, knowing that the end of it will be that you will advance her a little money and get her into your power, and then will send her down there to the Hutches, where all the spirit and originality and genius will be crushed out of her work, and she will become a hat-writer like the rest of them for Meeson's is a strictly commercial undertaking, you know, and Meeson's public don't like genius, they like their literature dull and holy!--and it's an infernal shame! that's what it is, uncle!” and the young man, whose blue eyes were by this time flashing fire, for he had worked himself up as he went along, brought his fist down with a bang upon the writingtable by way of emphasising his words.
"Have you done?” said his uncle.
“Yes, I've done; and I hope that I have put it plain.”
“Very well; and now might I ask you, supposing that you should ever come to manage this business, if your sentiments accurately represent the system upon which you would proceed?”
“Of course they do. I am not going to turn dishonest for anybody."
“Thank you. They seem to have taught you the art of plain speaking up at Oxford--though, it appears," with a sneer, “they taught you very little else. Well, now it is my turn to speak; and I tell you what it is, young man: you will either instantly beg my pardon for what you have said, or you will leave Meeson's for good and all."
“I won't beg your pardon for speaking the truth,” said Eustace hotly; "the fact is, that here you never hear the truth: all these poor devils creep and crawl about you, and daren't call their souls their own. I shall be devilish glad to get out of this place, I can
I hate it. The place reeks of sharp practice and money-making-money-making by fair means or foul."
The elder man had, up till now, at all events to outward appearance, kept his !temper; but this last flower of vigorous English was altogether too much for one whom the possession of so much money had for many
years shielded from hearing unpleasant truths put roughly. His face grew like a devil's, his thick eyebrows contracted themselves, and his pale lips quivered with fury. For a few seconds he could not speak, so great was his emotion. When, at length, he did, his voice was as thick and laden with rage as a dense mist is with rain.
"You impudent young rascal!” he began, "you ungrateful foundling! Do you suppose that when my brother left you to starve—which was all that you were fit for-I picked you out of the gutter for this: that you should have the insolence to come and tell me how to conduct my business? Now, young man, I'll just tell you what it is. You can be off and conduct a business of your own on whatever principles you choose. Get out of Meeson's, sir; and never dare to show your nose here again, or I'll give the porters orders to hustle you off the premises! And, now, that isn't all. I've done with you, never you look to me for another sixpence! I'm not going to support you any longer, I can tell you. And, what's more, do you know what I am going to do just now? I'm going off to old Todd--that's my lawyer —and I'm going to tell him to make another will and to leave every farthing I have--and that isn't much short of two millions, one way and another—to Addison and Roscoe. They don't want it, but that don't matter. You sha'n't have it-no, not a farthing of it; and I won't have a pile like that frittered away in charities and mismanagement. There now, my fine young gentle
man, just be off and see if your new business principles will get you a living."
"All right, uncle; I'm going," said the young man quietly. "I quite understand what our quarrel means for me, and, to tell you the truth, I am not sorry. I have never wished to be dependent on you, or to have anything to do with a business carried on as Meeson's is. I have a hundred a year my mother left me, and, with the help of that and my education, I hope to make a living. Still, I don't want to part from you in anger, because you have been very kind to me at times, and, as you remind me, you picked me out of the gutter when I was orphaned or not far from it.
So I hope you will shake hands before I go.”
“Ah!” snarled his uncle; "you want to pipe down now, do you? But that won't do.
Off you go! and mind you don't set foot in Pompadour Hall” ---- Mr. Meeson's seat--"unless it is to get your clothes. Come, cut!” “You misunderstand me," said Eustace,
with a touch of native dignity which became him very well. “Probably we shall not meet again, and I did not wish to part in anger, that was all. Good morning.” And he bowed and left the office.
“ Confound him!” muttered his uncle as the door closed, “he's a good plucked one-showed spirit. But I'll show spirit, too. Meeson is a man of his word. Cut him off with a shilling? not I; cut him off with nothing at all! And yet, curse it, I like the lad,
I've done with him, thanks to that minx of a Smithers girl. Perhaps he's sweet on her? then they can go and starve together, and be hanged to them! She had better keep out of my way, for she shall smart for this, so sure as my name is Jonathan Meeson. I'll keep her up to the letter of that agreement, and, if she tries to publish a book inside of this country or out of it, I'll crush her-yes, I'll crush her, if it costs me five thousand to do it!" and, with a snarl, he dropped his fist heavily upon the table before him.
Then he rose, put poor Augusta's agreement carefully back into the safe, which he shut with a savage snap, and proceeded to visit the various departments of his vast establishment, and to make such hay therein as had never before been dreamt of in the classic halls of Meeson's.
To this hour the clerks of the great house talk of that dreadful day with bated breath—for as bloody Hector raged through the Greeks, so did the mighty Meeson rage through his hundred departments. In the very first office he caught a wretched clerk eating sardine sandwiches. Without a moment's hesitation he took the sandwiches and threw them through the window. “Do you suppose
I pay you to come and eat your filthy sandwiches here?” he asked savagely. "There, now you can go and look for them; and see you here: don't trouble to come back, you idle, worthless fellow.