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MR. TOMBEY GOES FORWARD.
From that day forward, the voyage on the Kangaroo was, until the last dread catastrophe, a very happy one for Augusta. Lord and Lady Holmhurst made much of her, and all the rest of the first-class passengers followed suit, and soon she found herself the most popular character on board. The two copies of her book that there were on the ship were passed on from hand to hand, till they would hardly hang together, and, really, at last, she got quite tired of hearing of her own creations. But this was not all; Augusta was, it will be remembered, an exceedingly pretty woman, and melancholy as the fact may seem, it still remains a fact that a pretty woman is in the eyes of most people a more interesting object than a man, or than a lady who is not “built that way.” Thus it came to pass that what between her youth, her beauty, her talent, and her misfortunes—for Lady Holmhurst had not exactly kept that history to herself—Augusta was all of a sudden elevated into the position of a perfect heroine. It really almost frightened the poor girl, who had been accustomed to nothing but sorrow, ill-treatment, and grind
ing poverty, to suddenly find herself in this strange position, with every man on board that great vessel at her beck and call. But she was human, and, therefore, of course, she enjoyed it. It is something when one has been wandering for hour after hour in the wet and melancholy night, suddenly to see the fair dawn breaking and burning overhead, and to know that the worst is over, for now there will be light whereby to set our feet. It is something, even to the most Christian soul, to utterly and completely triumph over one who had done all in his power to crush and destroy you; whose grasping greed has indirectly been the cause of the death of the person you loved best in the whole round world. And Augusta did triumph. As the story of Mr. Meeson's conduct to her got about, the little society of the ship--which was, after all, a very fair example of society in miniature—fell away from this publishing prince, and not even the jingling of his money-bags could lure it back. He, the great, the practically omnipotent, the owner of two millions, and the hard master of hundreds upon whose toil he battened, was practically cut. Even the clerk, who was going out on a chance of getting a place in a New Zealand bank, would have nothing to say to him. And, what is more, he felt it even more than an ordinary individual would have done. He, the “Printer-devil,” as poor little Jeannie used to call him, he to be slighted and flouted by a pack of people whom he could buy up three times over, and all on account of a wretched authoress-an authoress, if you please! It
made Mr. Meeson very wild-a state of affairs which was brought to a climax when one morning Lord Holmhurst, who had for several days been showing a growing dislike to his society, actually almost cut him dead; that is, he did not notice his outstretched hand, and passed him with a slight bow.
“Never mind, my Lord-never mind!” muttered Mr. Meeson after that somewhat pompous but amiable nobleman's retreating form. “We'll see if I can't come square with you. I'm a dog who can pull a string or two in the English press, I am! Those who have the money and have got a hold of people, so that they must write what they tell them, ain't the sort to be cut by any Colonial Governor, my Lord!” And in his anger he fairly shook his fist at the unconscious peer.
“Seem to be a little out of temper, Mr. Meeson," said a voice at his elbow, the owner of which was a big young man with hard but kindly features and a large moustache. “What has the Governor been doing to you?"
“Doing, Mr. Tombey? He's been cutting me, that's all—me, Meeson!-cutting me dead, or something like it. I held out my hand, and he looked right over it, and marched by.”
"Ah!” said Mr. Tombey, who was a wealthy New Zealand landowner; "and now, why do you suppose he did that?"
“Why? I'll tell you why. It's all about that girl.” ”.
“Miss Smithers, do you mean?" said Tombey the
' big, with a curious flash of his deep-set eyes.
“Yes, Miss Smithers. She wrote a book, and I bought the book for fifty pounds, and stuck a clause in that she should give me the right to publish anything she wrote for five years at a price—a common sort of thing enough in one way and another, when you are dealing with some idiot who don't know any better. Well, as it happened, this book sold like wildfire; and, in time, the young lady comes to me and wants more money, wants to get out of the hanging clause in the agreement, wants everything, like a female Oliver Twist; and when I say, “No, you don't,' loses her temper and makes a scene. And it turns out that what she wanted the money for was to take a sick sister, or cousin, or aunt, or some one, out of England; and when she could not do it, and the relation died, then she emigrates, and goes and tells the people on board ship that it is all my fault.”
“And I suppose that that is a conclusion which you do not feel drawn to, Mr. Meeson?”
“No, Tombey, I don't. Business is business; and if I happen to have got to windward of the young woman, why, so much the better for me. She's getting her experience, that's all; and she ain't the first, and won't be the last. But if she goes saying much more about me, I go for her for slander, that's sure."
“On the legal ground that the greater the truth, the greater the libel, I presume?" Ι
Mr. Meeson's Il’ill,
“Confound her!” went on Meeson, without noticing his remark, and contracting his heavy eyebrows, “there's no end to the trouble she has brought on me. relled with my nephew about her, and now she's dragging my name through the dirt here, and I'll bet the story will go all over New Zealand and Australia.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Tombey, “I fancy you will find it take a lot of choking; and now. Mr. Meeson, with your permission I will say a word, and try and throw a new light upon a very perplexing matter. It never seems to have occurred to you what you are, so I may as well put it to you plainly. If you are not a thief, you are, at least, a very well-coloured imitation. You take a girl's book and make hundreds upon hundreds out of it, and give her fifty. You tie her down, so as to provide for successful swindling of the same sort during future years, and then, when she comes to beg a few pounds of you, you show her the door. And now you wonder, Mr. Meeson, that respectable people will have nothing to do with you! Well, I tell you, my opinion is that the only society to which you would be really suited is that of a cow-hide. Good-morning," and the large young man walked off, his very mustachios curling with wrath and contempt. Thus, for a second time, did the great Mr. Meeson hear the truth from the lips of babes and sucklings, and the worst of it was that he could not disinherit Number Two as he had Number One.
Now this, it is obvious, was very warm, and indeed exaggerated advocacy on the part of Mr. Tombey, who,