« ZurückWeiter »
you: am I leaving this property or are you? Don't trouble yourself to answer that, however, but just attend. Either you draw up that will at once, while I wait, or you say good-bye to about £2000 a year; for that's what Meeson's business is worth, I reckon. Now you take your choice."
Mr. Todd did take his choice. In under an hour the will, which was very short, was drawn and engrossed.
"Now then," said Meeson, addressing himself to Mr. Todd and the managing clerk, as he took the quill between his fingers to sign, "do you two bear in mind that at the moment I execute this will I am of sound mind, memory, and understanding. There you are; now do you two witness."
It was night, and King Capital, in the shape of Mr. Meeson, sat alone at dinner in his palatial diningroom at Pompadour. Dinner was over. The powdered footmen had departed with stately tread, and the head butler was just placing the decanters of richly coloured wine before this solitary lord of all. The dinner had been a melancholy failure. Dish after dish, the cost of any one of which would have fed a poor child for a month, had been brought up and handed to the master only to be found fault with and sent away. On that night Mr. Meeson had no appetite.
"Johnston," he said to the butler, when he was sure
the footmen could not hear him, "has Mr. Eustace been here?"
"Has he gone?”
"Yes, sir. He came to fetch his things, and then went away in a cab."
"I don't know, sir. He told the man to drive to Birmingham."
"Did he leave any message?"
"Yes, sir; he bade me say that you should not be troubled with him again; but that he was sorry that you had parted from him in anger."
"Why did you not give me that message before?" "Because Mr. Eustace said I was not to give it unless you asked after him."
"Very good. Johnston!"
"You will give orders that Mr. Eustace's name is not to be mentioned in this house again. Any servant mentioning Mr. Eustace's name will be dismissed."
"Very good, sir;" and Johnston went.
Mr. Meeson gazed round him. He looked at the long array of glass and silver, at the spotless napery and costly flowers. He looked at the walls hung with works of art, which, whatever else they might be, were at least expensive; at the mirrors and the soft waxlights; at the marble mantelpieces and the bright warm fires (for it was November); at the rich wall paper, and
the soft, deep-hued carpet; and reflected that they were all his. And then he sighed, and his coarse, heavy face sank in and grew sad.
Of what use was this last
He had nobody to leave
extremity of luxury to him? it to, and, to speak the truth, it gave him but little pleasure. Such pleasure as he had in life was derived from making money, not from spending it. The only times when he was really happy were when he sat in his counting-house, directing the enterprises of his vast establishment, and adding sovereign by sovereign to his enormous accumulations. That had been his one joy for forty years, and it was still his joy.
And then he fell to thinking of his nephew, the only son of his brother whom he had once loved, before he lost himself in publishing books and making money, and sighed again. He had been attached to the lad in his own coarse way, and it was a blow to him to cut himself loose from him. But Eustace had defied him, and--what was worse-he had told him the truth, which he, of all men, could not bear. He had said that his system of trade was dishonest, that he took more than his due, and it was so. He knew it; but he could not tolerate that it should be told him, and that his whole life should thereby be discredited, and even his accumulated gold tarnished-stamped as ill-gotten; least of all could he bear it from his dependant. He was not altogether a bad man; nobody is: he was only a coarse, vulgar tradesman, hardened and defiled by a long career of sharp dealing. At the
bottom he had his feelings like other men, but he could not tolerate exposure or even contradiction; therefore, he had revenged himself. And yet as he sat there, in solitary glory, he realised that to revenge does not bring happiness, and could even find it in his heart to envy the steadfast honesty that had defied him at the cost of its own ruin.
Not that he meant to relent or alter his determination. Mr. Meeson never relented, and never changed his mind; had he done so he would not at that moment have been the master of two millions of money.
AUGUSTA'S LITTLE SISTER.
WHEN Augusta left Meeson's she was in a very sad condition of mind, to explain which it will be necessary to say a word or two about that accomplished young lady's previous history. Her father had been a clergyman, and, like most clergymen, not overburdened with the good things of this world. When Mr. Smithers -or, rather, the Rev. James Smithers-died he left behind him a widow and two children-Augusta, aged fourteen, and Jeannie, aged four. There had been two others, both boys, who had come into the world between Augusta and Jeannie, but they had both preceded their father to the land of shadows. Mrs. Smithers had, fortunately for herself, a life interest in a sum of £7000, which, being well invested, brought her in £350 a year; and, in order to turn this little income to the best possible account and give her two girls all educational opportunities possible under the circumstances, on her husband's death she moved from the village where he had for many years been curate, into the city of Birmingham. Here she lived in absolute retirement for some five years and then suddenly died,