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Two days later Augusta followed the remains of her dearly loved sister to their last resting-place, and then came home on foot (for she was the only mourner), and sat in her black gown before the little fire, and reflected upon her position. What was she to do? She could not stay in these rooms. It made her heart ache every time that her eyes fell upon the empty sofa opposite, dinted as it was with the accustomed weight of poor Jeannie's frame. Where was she to go, and what was she to do? She might get literary employment, but then her agreement with Messrs. Meeson stared her in the face. That agreement was very widely drawn. It bound her to offer all literary work of any sort, that might come from her pen during the next five years, to Messrs. Meeson at the fixed rate of seven per cent. on the published price. Obviously, as it seemed to her, though perhaps erroneously, this clause might be stretched to include even a newspaper article; and she knew the malignant nature of Mr. Meeson well enough to be quite certain that, if possible, that would be done. It was true she might manage to make a bare living out of her work, even at the beggarly pay of seven per cent.; but Augusta was a person of spirit, and she was determined that she would rather starve than that Meeson should again make huge profits out of her labor. This avenue being closed to her, she turned her mind elsewhere; but, look where she might, the prospect was equally dark.
Augusta's remarkable literary success had not been
of much practical advantage to her, for in this country literary success does not mean so much as it does in some others. As a matter of fact, indeed, the average Briton has, at heart, a considerable contempt, if not for literature, at least for those who produce it. Literature, in his mind, is connected with the idea of garrets and extreme poverty; and therefore, having the national respect for money, he in secret, if not in public, despises it. A tree is known by its fruits, says he. Let a man succeed at the bar, and he makes thousands upon thousands a year, and is promoted to the highest offices in the state. Let a man succeed in art, and he will be paid one or two thousand pounds apiece for his most "pot-boilery" portraits. But your literary men-why, with a few fortunate exceptions, the best of them barely make a living. What can literature be worth, if a man can't make a fortune out of it? So argues the Briton-no doubt with some of his sound common-sense. Not that he has no respect for genius. All men bow to true genius, even when they fear and envy it. But he thinks a good deal more of genius dead than genius living. However this may be, there is no doubt but that if through any cause— such, for instance, as the sudden discovery by the great and highly civilized American people that the seventh commandment was probably intended to apply to authors, among the rest of the world—the pecuniary rewards of literary labor should be put more upon an equality with those of other trades, literature—as a profession-will go up many steps in popular esteem.
At present, if a member of a family has betaken himself to the high and honorable calling (for, surely, it is both) of letters, his friends and relations are apt to talk about him in a shy and diffident, not to say apologetic, way; much as they would had he adopted another sort of book-making as a means of livelihood.
Thus it was that, notwithstanding her success, Augusta had nowhere to turn in her difficulty. She had absolutely no literary connection. Nobody had called upon her, or sought her out in consequence of her book. One or two authors in London, and a few unknown people from different parts of the country and abroad, had written to her-that was all. Had she lived in town it might have been different; but, unfortunately for her, she did not.
The more she thought, the less clear did her path become; until, at last, she got an inspiration. Why not leave England altogether? She had nothing to keep her here. She had a cousin-a clergyman-in New Zealand, whom she had never seen, but who had read "Jemima's Vow," and written her a kind letter about it. That was the one delightful thing about writing books-one made friends all over the world. Surely he would take her in for a while, and put her in the way of earning a living where Meeson would not be to molest her? Why should she not go? She had twenty pounds left, and the furniture (which included an expensive invalid chair) and books would fetch another thirty or so-enough to pay for a sec
ond-class passage and leave a few pounds in her pocket. At the worst it would be a change, and she could not go through more there than she did here; so that very night she sat down and wrote to her clergyman cousin.
It was on a Tuesday evening that a mighty vessel was steaming majestically out of the mouth of the Thames, and shaping her imposing course straight at the ball of the setting sun. Most people will remember reading descriptions of the steamship Kangaroo, and being astonished at the power of her engines, the beauty of her fittings, and the extraordinary speed— about eighteen knots — which she developed in her trials, with an unusually low expenditure of coal. For the benefit of those who have not, however, it may be stated that the Kangaroo-" the Little Kangaroo," as she was ironically named among sailor men-was the very latest development of the science of modern shipbuilding. Everything about her, from the electric light and boiler tubes up, was on a new and patent system.
Four hundred feet and more she measured from stem to stern, and in that space were crowded and packed all the luxuries of a palace, and all the conveniences of an American hotel. She was a beautiful and a wonderful thing to look on; as, with her holds full of costly merchandise, and her decks crowded with her living freight of about a thousand human