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our hearts we know it and act up to it. Far gone, indeed, must we be in mental or physical agony before we abandon the attempt to keep up appearances.
Augusta drank a little tea and ate a very small bit of bread-and-butter. As in the case of Mr. Meeson, the events of the day had not tended to increase her appetite. Jeannie drank a little milk, but ate nothing. When this form had been gone through, and the maid-of-all-work had once more made her appearance and cleared the table, Jeannie spoke again.
"Gus," she said, "I want you to put me to bed and then come and read to me out of 'Jemima's Vow 'where poor Jemima dies, you know. It is the most beautiful thing in the book, and I want to hear it again."
Her sister did as she wished, and, taking down "Jemima's Vow," Jeannie's own copy, as it was called, being the very first that had come into the house, she opened it at the part Jeannie had asked for, and read aloud, keeping her voice as steady as she could. As a matter of fact, however, the scene itself was as powerful as it was pathetic, and quite sufficient to account for any unseemly exhibitions of feeling on the part of the reader. However, she struggled through it till the last sentence was reached. It ran thus: "And so Jemima stretched out her hand to him and said 'Goodbye.' And presently, knowing that she had now kept her promise, and being happy because she had done so, she went to sleep."
"Ah !" murmured the blue-eyed child who listened.
"I wish that I was as good as Jemima. But though I have no vow to keep I can say 'Good-bye,' and I can go to sleep."
Augusta made no answer, and presently Jeannie dozed off. Her sister looked at her with eager affection. "She is giving up," she said to herself, "and, if she gives up, she will die. I know it, it is because we are not going away. How can I get the money, now that that horrible man has gone? how can I get it?" and she buried her head in her hand and thought. Presently an idea struck her: she might go back to Meeson and eat her words, and sell him the copyright of her new book for £100, as the agreement provided. That would not be enough, however, for travelling with an invalid is expensive; but she might offer to bind herself over to him for a term of years as a tame author, like those who worked in the Hutches. She was sure that he would be glad to get her, if only he could do so at his own price. It would be slavery worse than any penal servitude, and even now she shuddered at the prospect of prostituting 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. 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. 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 salary, 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 away on his rushing pinions into the spaces of the Hid. One more human item lay still and stiff, one more account was closed for good or evil, the echo of one more tread had passed from the earth forever. The old million-numbered tragedy 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!
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 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 absolute and appalling; it struck tangibly upon her sense, as the darkness struck upon her
eyeballs and filled her with a numb, unreasoning 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.
On the second day following the death of poor little Jeannie Smithers, Mr. Eustace Meeson was strolling 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, somehow or other, 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. So it was not the loss of the society of his respected uncle, or the prospective enjoyment of two millions of money, which was troubling him. Indeed, after he had once cleared his goods and chattels out of Pompadour Hall and settled them in a room in a hotel, he had not given the matter much thought. But he had given a good many thoughts to Augusta Smithers's gray eyes, and, by way of getting an insight into her character, he had at once invested in a copy of