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of the latter, the butler opened the door and said that two gentlemen wanted very particularly to speak to Miss Smithers. And then she was once more handed over to her old enemies, the interviewers; and after them came the representatives of the company, and then more special reporters, and then an artist from one of the illustrated papers, who insisted upon her giving him an appointment in language that, though polite, indicated that he meant to have his way; and so on till nearly midnight, when she rushed off to bed and locked her door.
Next morning Augusta appeared at breakfast dressed in an exceedingly becoming low dress, which Lady Holmhurst sent up with her hot water. She had never worn one before, and it certainly is trying to put on a low dress for the first time in full daylight-indeed, she felt as guilty as does a person of temperate habits when he is persuaded to drink a brandy and soda before getting up. However, there was no help for it; so, throwing a shawl over her shoulders, she descended.
"My dear, do let me see," said Lady Holmhurst, as soon as the servant had left the room.
With a sigh Augusta took off the shawl, and her friend ran round the table to look. There, on her neck, was the will. The cuttle ink had proved an excellent medium, and the tattooing was as fresh as the day on which it had been done, and would, no doubt, remain so till the last hour of her life.
"Well," said Lady Holmhurst, "I hope that the
young man will be duly grateful. I should have to be very much in love," and she looked meaningly at Augusta, "before I would spoil myself in that fashion for any man."
Augusta blushed at the insinuation, and said nothing. At ten o'clock, just as they were half through breakfast, there came a ring at the bell.
"There he is," said Lady Holmhurst, clapping her hands. "Well, if this isn't the very funniest thing that I ever heard of! I told Jones to show him in here."
Hardly were the words out of her mouth when the butler, who looked as solemn as a mute in his deep mourning, opened the door, and announced "Mr. Eustace Meeson," in those deep and commanding tones which flunkeys, and flunkeys alone, have at their command. There was a moment's pause. Augusta half rose from her chair, and then sat down again; and, noticing her embarrassment, Lady Holmhurst smiled maliciously. Then in came Eustace himself, looking rather handsome, exceedingly nervous, and beautifully got up-in a frockcoat, with a flower in it.
"Oh! how do you do?" he said to Augusta, holding out his hand, which she took rather coldly.
"How do you do, Mr. Meeson?" she answered. "Let me introduce you to Lady Holmhurst. Mr. Meeson, Lady Holmhurst." Eustace bowed, and put his hat down on the butter-dish, for he was very much over
"I hope that I have not come too early," he said in
great confusion, as he perceived his mistake. "I thought that you would have done breakfast."
"Oh, not at all, Mr. Meeson," said Lady Holmhurst. "Won't you have a cup of tea? Augusta, give Mr. Meeson a cup of tea."
He took the tea, which he did not want in the least, and then there came an awkward silence. Nobody seemed to know how to begin the conversation.
"How did you find the house, Mr. Meeson?" said Lady Holmhurst, at last. "Miss Smithers gave you no address, and there are two Lady Holmhursts-my mother-in-law and myself."
"Oh, I looked it out, and then I walked here last night and saw you both sitting at the window."
"Indeed!" said Lady Holmhurst. "And why did you not come in? You might have helped to protect Miss Smithers from the reporters."
"I don't know," he answered confusedly. "I did not like to; and, besides, a policeman thought I was a suspicious character, and told me to move on."
"Dear me, Mr. Meeson; you must have been having a good look at us."
Here Augusta interposed, fearing lest her admirerfor, with an unerring instinct, she now guessed how matters stood-should say something foolish. A young man who is capable of standing to stare at a house in Hanover Square is, she thought, evidently capable of anything.
"I was so surprised to see you yesterday," she said. "How did you know that we were coming?"
Eustace told her that he had seen it in the Globe. "I am sure you cannot have been so surprised as I was," he went on. "I had made sure that you were drowned. I went up to Birmingham to call on you after you had gone, and found that you had vanished and left no address. The maid-servant declared that you had sailed in a ship called the Conger Eel-which I afterwards found out was the Kangaroo. And then she went down; and after a long time they published a full list of the passengers, and your name was not among them, and I thought that after all you might have got off the ship or something. Then, some days afterwards, came a telegram from Albany, in Australia, giving the names of Lady Holmhurst and the others who were saved, and specially mentioning 'Miss Smithers-the novelist' and Lord Holmhurst as being among the drowned, and that is how the dreadful suspense came to an end. It was awful, I can tell you."
Both of the young women looked at Eustace's face and saw that there was no mistaking the real nature of the trial through which he had passed. So real was it, that it never seemed to occur to him that there was anything unusual in his expressing such intense interest in the affairs of a young lady with whom he was outwardly, at any rate, on the terms of merest acquaint
"It was very kind of you to think so much about
me," said Augusta gently. "I had no idea that you would call again, or I would have left word where I was going."
"Well, thank Heaven you are safe and sound, at any rate," answered Eustace; and then, with a sudden burst of anxiety, "you are not going back to New Zealand just yet, are you?"
"I don't know. I am rather sick of the sea at present."
"No, indeed, she is not," said Lady Holmhurst; "she is going to stop with me and Dick. Miss Smithers saved Dick's life, you know, when the nurse, poor thing, had run away. And now, dear, you had better tell Mr. Meeson about the will."
"The will. What will?" asked Eustace.
"Listen, and you will hear."
And Eustace did listen with open eyes and ears while Augusta, getting over her shyness as best she might, told the whole story of his uncle's death, and of the way in which he had communicated his testamentary wishes.
"And do you mean to tell me," said Eustace, astounded, "that you allowed him to have his confounded will tattooed upon you?"
"Yes," answered Augusta, "I did; and, what is more, Mr. Meeson, I think that you ought to be very much obliged to me; for I daresay that I shall often be sorry for it."
I am very much obliged," answered Eustace. "I
Mr. Meeson's Will.