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1 than any penal servitude, and even now she shuddered at the prospect of pros'tituting her great abilities to the necessities of such work as Meeson's made their thousands out of-work out of which every spark of originality was stamped into nothingness, as though it were the mark of the Beast 2. Yes, it would be dreadful-it would break her heart; but she was prepared to have her heart broken and her genius wrung out of her by inches, if only she could get two hundred pounds wherewith to take Jeannie away to the South of France before the east wind came. Mr. Meeson would, no doubt, make a hard bargain-the hardest he could; but still, if she would consent' to bind herself for a sufficient number of years at a sufficiently low sălary, he would probably advance' her a hundred pounds, besides the hundred for the copyright of the new book.

And so, having made up her mind to the sacrifice, with a sigh she went to bed, and, wearied out with misery, to sleep. And even as she slept, a Presence that she could not see was standing near her bed, and a Voice that she could not hear was calling through the gloom. Another mortal had bent low at the feet of that Unknown God whom men name Death, and been borne on his rushing pinions into the spaces of the Hid 3. One more human ītem lay still and stiff, one more account was closed for good or evil, the echo of one more tread had passed from the earth for ever. The old millionnumbered 4 trăgedy in which all must take a part had repeated itself • once more down to its last and most awful scene. Yes; the grim farce was played out, and the little actor Jeannie was white in death!

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Just at the dawn, Augusta dreamed that somebody with cold breath was breathing on her face, and woke up with a start and listened. Jeannie's bed was on the other side of the room, and she could

1) Penal servitude is imprisonment with hard labour, a punishment which has taken the place of transportation. Its duration varies from five years to the remain'der of the convict's life. Penal laws or statutes prohibit certain actions and impose' penalties for the commission of them.

2) This is a reference to Revelation 19, 19. Those who had received the mark of the Beast (the enemy of God) were cast alive into a lake of fire, and so annihilated.

3) Past part. of to hide, used as a noun, to denote the mysterious unknown after death.

4) A tragedy in which millions have acted a part.

Mr. Meeson's Will.

3

generally hear her movements plainly enough, for the sick child was a restless sleeper. But now she could hear nothing, not even the faint vibration of her sister's breath. The silence was ab'solute and appalling; it struck tăngibly upon her sense, as the darkness struck upon her eye-balls, and filled her with a numb, unrea'soning terror. She slipped out of bed and struck a match. In another few seconds she was standing by Jeannie's white little bed, waiting for the wick of the candle to burn up. Presently the light grew. Jeannie was lying on her side, her white face resting on her white arm. Her eyes were wide open; but when Augusta held the candle near her she did not shut them or flinch. Her hand, too-oh, Heavens! the fingers were nearly cold.

Then Augusta understood, and lifting up her arms in agony, she shrieked till the whole house rang.

.

CHAPTER IV.

AUGUSTA'S DECISION.

On the second day following the death of poor little Jeannie Smithers, Mr. Eustace Meeson was strōlling about Birmingham with his hands in his pockets, and an air of indecision on his decidedly. agreeable and gentlemanlike countenance. Eustace Meeson was not particularly cast down by the extraordinary reverse' of fortune which. he had recently experienced. He was a young gentleman of a cheerful nature; and, besides, it did not so very much matter to him. He was in a blessed condition of celibacy, and had no wife and children · dependent upon him, and he knew that it would go hard if, with the help of the one hundred a year that he had of his own, he did not manage, with his education, to get a living by hook or by crook 1. So it was not the loss of the sōci'ety of his respected uncle, or of the prospective enjoy'ment of two millions of money, which was

1) Anyhow, in some way or another. With regard to the main idea, hook and crook are synonymous.

troubling him. Indeed', after he had once cleared his goods and chattels out of Pompadour Hall and settled them in a room in an hotel', he had not given the matter much thought. But he had given a good many thoughts to Augusta Smithers' grey eyes, and, by way of getting an insight into her character, he had at once invest'ed in 2 a copy of "Jemima's Vow", thereby, somewhat against his will, swelling the gains of Meeson's to the extent of several shillings. Now "Jemima's Vow", though simple and homely, was a most striking and powerful book, which fully deserved the reputa'tion that it had gained, and it affect'ed Eustace-who was in so much different from most young men of his age that he really did know the difference between good work and bad-more strongly than he would have liked to own. Indeed, at the termination of the story, what between 3 the beauty. of Augusta's pages, the memory of Augusta's eyes, and the knowledge of Augusta's wrongs, Mr. Eustace Meeson began to feel very much as though he had fallen in love. Accordingly, he went out walking, and, meeting a clerk whom he had known in the Meeson establishment—one of those who had been discharged on the same day as himself-he obtained from him Miss Smithers' address', and began to reflect as to whether or no he should call upon her. Unable to make up his mind, he continued his walk till he reached the quiet street where Augusta lived, and, suddenly perceiving the house of which the clerk had told him, yielded to temptation and rang.

The door was answered by the maid-of-all-work, who looked at him a little curiously, but said that Miss Smithers was in, and then conducted him to a door which was half open, and left him there in the kindly and agreeable fashion that maids-of-all-work have. Eustace was perplexed', and, looking through the door to see if any

1) The things belonging to him, his clothes, books, etc. The combination goods and chattels as a law-term, is used to denote personal property, in contradistinction with real property, i. e. lands and estates. (See p. 21, note 3.)

2) To invest money in shares, etc. means to lay out money with a view to obtaining profit, by buying shares in some enterprise, or otherwise. Here it simply means that he had spent some shillings in buying a copy of the book.

3) More usually what with, partly with.

4) The servant came to the door to see who had rung the bell.

one was in the room, discovered Augusta herself, dressed in some dark material, seated in a chair, her hands folded on her lap, her pale face set1 like a stone, and her eyes gazing into vacancy. He paused, wondering what could be the matter, and as he did so his umbrella slipped from his hand, making a noise that rendered it necessary for him to declare' himself.

Augusta rose as he advanced, and looked at him with a puzzled air, as though she were striving to recall his name or where she had met him.

"I beg your pardon," he stammered, "I must introduce myself, as the girl has desert'ed me-I am Eustace Meeson."

Augusta's face hardened at the name. "If you have come to me from Messrs. Meeson & Co."— she said quickly, and then broke off, as though struck by some new ide'a.

"Indeed, no," said Eustace. "I have nothing in common with Messrs. Meeson now, except my name; and I have only come to tell you how sorry I was to see you treated as you were by my uncle. You remember, I was in the office?"

"Yes," she said, with a suspicion 2 of a blush, "I remember you. were very kind."

"Well, you see," he went on, "I had a great row 3 with my uncle after that, and it ended in his turning me out of the place, bag and baggage, and informing me that he was going to cut me off with a shilling, which," he added reflectively, "he has probably done by now" 4. "Do I understand you, Mr. Meeson, to mean that you quarrelled with your uncle about me and my books?"

"Yes; that is so," he said.

"It was very chivalrous of you," she answered, looking at him. with a new-born curiosity. Augusta was not accustomed to find knights-ĕrrant thus prepared, at such cost to themselves, to break a lance in her cause. Least of all was she prepared to find that knight

1) Fixed, immövable; she sat pondering on her grief

2) With a very faint blush; there was hardly any evidence of one. Comp.: A quick nose might detect in the atmosphere just the suspicion, and nothing more, of tobacco. (Philips, The Dean.)

3) A row (pr. with ou in house) is here a vi'olent, noisy ǎlterca'tion. Colloquial term for quarrel.

4) By this time; by this.

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bearing the hateful crest of Meeson-if, indeed, Meeson had a crest. "I ought to apologise," she went on presently, after an awkward pause, "for making such a scene 2 in the office, but I wanted money so dreadfully, and it was so hard to be refused. But it does not matter now. It is all done with." 3

There was a dull, hopeless ring about her voice that awoke his curiosity. For what could she have wanted the money, and why did she no longer want it?

"I am sorry," he said. "Will you tell me what you wanted it so much for?"

She looked at him, and then, acting upon impulse rather than reflection, said in a low voice

"If you like I will show you."

He bowed, wondering what was coming next. Rising from her chair, Augusta led the way to a door which opened out of the sittingroom, and gently turning the handle, entered, Eustace following her. The room was a small bed-room, of which the faded călico blind. had been pulled down; but as it happened, the sunlight, such as it was, beat full upon the blind, and came through it in yellow bars. They fell upon the furniture of the bare little room; they fell upon the iron bed'stead, and upon something lying on it, which he did not at first nōtice, because it was covered with a sheet.

Augusta walked up to the bed and gently lifted the sheet, revealing the sweet face, fringed round about with golden hair, of little Jeannie in her coffin.

Eustace gave an exclamation, and started back vi'olently. He had not been prepared for such a sight; indeed, it was the first such sight that he had ever seen, and it shocked him beyond' words.

1) A crest is a distinguishing mark, a plume of feathers or some other ornament, worn by an armed knight on the top of his helmet. Something like it was often worn by his retainers. The loss of it might denote defeat and cast dishonour on the knight. This explains the author's doubt about M. having a crest at all.

2) Making a scene is giving utterance to feelings of anger, indignation, sorrow, &c. in a noisy way.

3) The meaning is: It is all over now. Compare the active form

I have done with it.

4) There was a tone in her voice expressive of hopelessness.

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