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CHAPTER X.

THE LAST OF MR. MEESON.

AUGUSTA turned from the old man with a gesture of impatience not unmixed' with disgust'. His selfishness was of an order that revolted her.

"I suppose," she said sharply to Bill, "that I must have this will tattooed upon my neck."

"Yes, Miss; that's it," said Bill. "You see, Miss, one wants space for a doccymint1. If it were a ship or a flag, now, or a fancy pictur of your young man, I might manage it on your arm; but there must be breadth for a legal doccymint, more especially as I should like to make a good job of it while I is about it. I don't want none of them laryers a-turning up their noses 2 at Bill Jones' tattooing."

"Very well," said Augusta, with an inward sinking of the heart 3; "I will go and get ready."

Accordingly she adjourned into the hut and removed the body of her dress and turned down the flannel garment underneath it in such a fashion as to leave as much of her neck bare as is to be seen when a lady wears a moderately low dress. Then she came out again, dressed, or rather undressed, for the sacrifice. Meanwhile Bill had drawn out the ink-bag of the cuttle, prepared a little round fragment of wood which he sharpened like a pencil by rubbing it against a stone, and put a keen edge on to a long white fishbone that he had selected.

"Now, Mr. Bill, I am ready," said Augusta, seating herself resolutely upon a flat stone and setting her teeth 4.

"My word 5, Miss; you are a plucky one!" said the sailor, con

1) Observe Bill's vulgarisms: doccymint, pictur, I is, laryers for documents, picture, I am, lawyers.

2) To turn up one's nose at a thing is to look at it with contempt, to consider it as below one's notice.

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3) She had some difficulty to keep up her courage.

4) She pressed her teeth closely together. Dutch: zij zette de tanden op elkaar.

5) Upon my word.

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templating her neck with the eye of an artist. "I never had such a bit of material to work on afore. Hang me if it ain't almost a pity to mark it! Not but what high-class tattooing is an ornimint to anybody, from a princess down 2; and in that you are fortunit, Miss, for I larnt tattooing from them as can tattoo, I did."

She was

Augusta bit her lip, and the tears came into her eyes. only a woman, and had a woman's little weakness; and, though she had never appeared in a low dress in her life, she knew that her neck was one of her greatest beauties, and was proud of it. It was hard to think that she would be marked all her life with this ridiculous will—that is, if she escaped—and, what was more, for the benefit of a young man who had no claim upon her at all 3.

Something told her that this upon her--the highest claim for the truth must out-she

That was what she said to herself; but as she said it, something in her told her that it was not true. young Mr. Eustace Meeson had a claim that a man can have upon a woman, loved him. It seemed to have come home to her quite clearly here in this dreadful desolate place, here in the very shadow of an awful death, that she did love him, truly and deeply. And that being so, she would not have been what she was—a gentle-natured, devoted woman- -had she not at heart rejoiced at this opportunity of selfsacrifice, even though that self-sacrifice was of the hardest sort, seeing that it involved what all women hate-the endurance of a ridiculous position. For love can do all things: it can even make its vōtaries brave ridicule 5.

"Go on," she said sharply, "and let us get it over as soon as possible."

"Very well, Miss. What is it to be, old gentleman? Cut it short, you know."

1) High-class work is of the first order, of the best.

2) He meant to say that his tattooing was so perfect that it would be an ornament even to a princess, consequently so much the more so to inferior persons.

3) He hardly knew her and so could not require her to do anything for him.

4) A thing comes home to one when he sees or feels it, gets convinced of it.

5) To brave ridicule is to bear bravely being laughed at.

"I leave all my property to Eustace H. Meeson,' that's as short as I can get it; and if properly witnessed, I think that it will cover everything '," said Mr. Meeson, with a feeble air of triumph. "Anyhow, I never heard of a will that is to carry about two millions being got into nine words before."

Bill poised 2 his fishbone, and, next second, Augusta gave a start and a little shriek, for the operation had begun.

"Never mind, Miss," said Bill consolingly; "you'll soon get used to it."

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After that Augusta set her teeth and endured in silence, though it really hurt her very much, for Bill was more careful of the artistic effect' and the permanence of the work than of the feelings of his subject 3. Fiat experimentum in corpore vili, he would have said, had he been convers'ant with the classics5, without much consideration for the corpus vile. So he pricked and dug away with his fishbone, which he dipped contin'ually in the cuttle-ink, and also with the sharp piece of wood, till Augusta began to feel perfectly faint. For three hours the work continued, and at the end of that time the body of the will was finished-for Bill was a răpid worker-being written in medium-sized letters right across' her shoulders. But the signatures yet remained to be affixed'.

Bill asked her if she would like to let them stand over till the morrow?--- but this, although she felt ill with the pain, she declined to do. She was marked now, marked with the inefface'able mark of Bill, so she might as well be marked to some purpose. If she put

1) It includes all that is necessary; no objections can be made to it. 2) To poise is to balance, to suspend'. Bill held the bone in his hand ready to let it come down and begin working.

3) He pricked hard and deep, because he wanted to make the letters distinct and enduring.

4) The experiment be made on the worthless body.

5) If he could have read and understood the Latin authors.

6) He dug away, i. e. he dug on, without stopping, continuously. Away is colloquially used with some verbs to denote continuance, sing away, talk away, &c.

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7) The body of the will is the will itself, without the date and the signatures.

8) See p. 20, note 5.

off the signing of the document till the morrow, it might be too late; Mr. Meeson might be dead, Johnnie might have changed his mind, or a hundred things. So she told them to go on and finish it as quickly as possible, for there were only about two hours more daylight. Fortunately Mr. Meeson was more or less acquainted with the formălities that are necessary in the execution of a will', namely, that the testator and the two witnesses should all sign in the presence of each other. He also knew that it was sufficient, if, in cases of illness, some third person held the pen between the testator's fingers and assisted him to write his name, or even if some one signed for the testator in his presence and by his direction; and, ar'guing from this knowledge, he came to the conclusion-afterwards justified in the great case of Meeson v. Addison and Another 2-that it would be sufficient if he inflict'ed the first prick of his signature, and then kept his hand upon Bill's while the rest was done. This accordingly he did, clumsily running the point of the sharp bone so deep into the unfortunate Augusta that she cried aloud, and then keeping his hand upon the sailor's arm while he worked in the rest of the signature, "J. Meeson."

When it was done, the turn of Johnnie came. Johnnie had at length aroused' himself to some interest in what was going on, and had stood by watching all the time, since Mr. Meeson, having laid his finger upon Augusta's shoulder, had solemnly declared the writing thereon 3 to be his last will and testament 4. As he (Johnnie) could not tattoo, the same process was gone through with reference to his signature, as in the case of Mr. Meeson. Then Bill Jones signed his own name, as the second witness to the will; and just as the light went out of the sky the document was finally executed--the date of the execution being alone omitted. Augusta got up off the flat stone where, for something like five hours, she had been seated during this torture, and staggering into the hut, threw herself down upon the

1) See p. 22, note 2.

2) The law-suit of M. versus (i. e. against) A.

3) See p. 9, note 3.

4) Testament is another term for a man's will, the written disposition of his property according to his last wishes. This document is usually described as "the last will and testament" of the testator, the maker of it.

sail, and went off into a dead faint 1. It was indeed only by a very strong exercise of the will that she had kept herself from fainting long before.

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The next thing she was conscious of was a dreadful smarting 2 in her back, and opened her eyes to find that it was quite dark in the hut. So weary was she, however, that after stretching out her hand to assure herself that Dick was safe by her side, she shut her eyes again and went fast asleep': When she woke, the daylight was creeping into the damp and squalid hut, revealing the heavy form of Mr. Meeson tossing to and fro in a troubled slumber on the further side 3 She got up, feeling dreadfully sore and weak; awoke the child, and taking him out to the stream of water washed him and herself as well as she could. It was very cold outside; so cold that Dick cried, and the rain-clouds were coming up fast, so she hurried back to the hut, and, together with Dick, made her breakfast off 4 some biscuit and some roast penguin's eggs, which were not at all bad eating. She was, indeed, quite faint with hunger, having swallowed no food for many hours, and felt proportionately better after it. Then she turned to exămine the condition of Mr. Meeson. The will had been executed none too soon 5, for it was evident to her that he was in a very bad way indeed. His face was sunken and hectic with fever, his teeth were chattering, and his talk, though he was now awake, was quite incoherent. She tried to get him to take some food; but he would swallow nothing but water. Having done all that she could for him, she went out to see the sailors, and met them coming down from the flag-staff. They had evidently, though not to any great extent', been at the rum-cask again, for Bill

1) She became quite unconscious, she fainted away so completely

that she seemed to be dead.

2) A smarting is a sharp, stinging pain.

3) The other, opposite side, farthest away from her.

4) Off denotes separation. She took some of the biscuit and some eggs, and breakfasted on them. Comp.: to dine off the joint.

5) Not a moment too soon.

6) Hectic fever comes on when a person is in the last stage of debility, the consequence of exhaustion of the body, as by consumption. The in'tellect remains clear almost to the last, only becoming clouded just before death.

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