“Well,” said Augusta at length, “it seems that’s the only thing to be done; but the question is, how to do it? I can only suggest, Mr. Meeson, that the will should be tattooed on you.”
“Oh!” said Mr. Meeson, feebly, “on me! Me tattooed like a savage—tattooed with my own will!”
“It wouldn’t be much use, either, governor, begging your pardon,” said Bill, “that is, if you are agoing to croak, as you say; ’cause where would the will be then? We might skin you with a sharp stone, perhaps, after you’ve done the trick, you know,” he added reflectively. “But then we have no salt, so I doubt if you’d keep; and if we set your hide in the sun, I reckon the writing would shrivel up so that all the courts of law in London could not make head or tail of it.”
Mr. Meeson groaned loudly, as well he might. These frank remarks would have been trying to any man; much more were they so to this opulent merchant prince, who had always set the highest value on what Bill rudely called his “hide.”
“There’s the infant,” went on Bill, meditatively. “He’s young and white, and I fancy his top-crust would work wonderful easy; but you’d have to hold him, for I expect that he’d yell proper.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Meeson; “let the will be tattooed upon the child. He’d be some use that way.”
“Yes,” said Bill; “and there’d allus be something left to remind me of a very queer time, provided he lives to get out of it, which is doubtful. Cuttle-ink won’t rub out, I’ll warrant.”
“I won’t have Dick touched,” said Augusta, indignantly. “It would frighten the child into fits; and, besides, nobody has a right to mark him for life in that way.”
“Well, then, there’s about an end of the question,” said Bill; “and this gentleman’s money must go wherever it is he don’t want it to.”
“No,” said Augusta, with a sudden flush, “there is not. Mr. Eustace Meeson was once very kind to me, and rather than he should lose the chance of getting what he ought to have, I—I will be tattooed.”
“Well, bust me!” said Bill, with enthusiasm, “bust me! if you ain’t a good-plucked one for a female woman; and if I was that there young man I should make bold to tell you so.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Meeson, “that is an excellent idea. You are young and strong, and as there is lots of food here, I dare say that you will take a long time to die. You might even live for some months. Let us begin at once. I feel dreadfully weak. I don’t think that I can live through the night, and if I know that I have done all I can to make sure that Eustace gets his own, perhaps dying will be a little easier!”
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 shoulders.”