“Well,” said Mr. Meeson, senior, who had been sitting at his desk with his great mouth open, apparently too much astonished to speak. “Well, there is a vixen for you. But she’ll come round. I’ve known them to do that sort of thing before—there are one or two down there,” and he jerked his thumb in the direction where the twenty and five tame authors sat each like a rabbit in his little hutch and did hat-work by the yard, “who carried on like that. But they are quiet enough now—they don’t show much spirit now. I know how to deal with that sort of thing—half-pay and a double tale of copy—that’s the ticket. Why, that girl will be worth fifteen hundred a year to the house. What do you think of it, young man, eh?”
“I think,” answered his nephew, on whose good-tempered face a curious look of contempt and anger had gathered, “I think that you ought to be ashamed of yourself!”
How Eustace was disinherited.
There was a pause—a dreadful pause. The flash had left the cloud, but the answering thunder had not burst upon the ear. Mr. Meeson gasped. Then he took up the cheque which Augusta had thrown upon the table and slowly crumpled it.
“What did you say, young man?” he said at last, in a cold, hard voice.
“I said that you ought to be ashamed of yourself,” answered his nephew, standing his ground bravely; “and, what is more, I meant it!”
“Oh! Now will you be so kind as to explain exactly why you said that, and why you meant it?”
“I meant it,” answered his nephew, speaking in a full, strong voice, “because that girl was right when she said that you had cheated her, and you know that she was right. I have seen the accounts of ’Jemima’s Vow’—I saw them this morning—and you have already made more than a thousand pounds clear profit on the book. And then, when she comes to ask you for something over the beggarly fifty pounds which you doled out to her, you refuse, and offer her three pounds as her share of the translation rights—three pounds as against your eleven!”
“Go on,” interrupted his uncle; “pray go on.”
“All right; I am going. That is not all: you actually avail yourself of a disgraceful trick to entrap this unfortunate girl into an agreement, whereby she becomes a literary bondslave for five years! As soon as you see that she has genius, you tell her that the expense of bringing out her book, and of advertising up her name, &c., &c., &c., will be very great—so great, indeed, that you cannot undertake it, unless, indeed, she agrees to let you have the first offer of everything she writes for five years to come, at somewhere about a fourth of the usual rate of a successful author’s pay—though, of course, you don’t tell her that. You take advantage of her inexperience to bind her by this iniquitous contract, knowing that the end of it will