Aurora Floyd, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Chapter 30

An Unexpected Visitor.

Aurora found a civil railway official at the Doncaster station, who was ready to take a ticket for her, and find her a comfortable seat in an empty carriage; but before the train started a couple of sturdy farmers took their seats upon the spring cushions opposite Mrs. Mellish. They were wealthy gentlemen, who farmed their own land, and travelled express; but they brought a powerful odor of the stable-yard into the carriage, and they talked with that honest Northern twang which always has a friendly sound to the writer of this story. Aurora, with her veil drawn over her pale face, attracted very little of their attention. They talked of farming-stock and horse-racing, and looked out of the window every now and then to shrug their shoulders at somebody else’s agriculture.

I believe they were acquainted with the capabilities of every acre of land between Doncaster and Harrow, and knew how it might have been made “worth ten shillin’ an acre more than it was, too, sir,” as they perpetually informed each other.

How wearisome their talk must have seemed to the poor lonely creature who was running away from the man she loved — from the man who loved her, and would love to the end of time.

“I did n’t mean what I wrote,” she thought. “My poor boy would never love me less. His great heart is made up of unselfish love and generous devotion. But he would be sorry for me; he would be so sorry! He could never be proud of me again; he could never boast of me any more. He would be always resenting some insult, or imagining some slight. It would be too painful for him. He would see his wife pointed at as the woman who had married her groom. He would be embroiled in a hundred quarrels, a hundred miseries. I will make the only return that I can ever make to him for his goodness to me — I will give him up, and go away and hide myself from him for ever.”

She tried to imagine what John’s life would be without her. She tried to think of him in some future time, when he should have worn out his grief, and reconciled himself to her loss. But she could not, she could not! She could not endure any image of him in which he was separated from his love for her.

“How should I ever think of him without thinking of his love for me?” she thought. “He loved me from the first moment in which he saw me. I have never known him except as a lover — generous, pure, and true.”

And in this mind Aurora watched the smaller stations, which looked like mere streaks of whitened wood-work as the express tore past them, though every one of them was a mile-stone upon the long road which was separating her from the man she loved.

Ah! careless wives, who think it a small thing, perhaps, that your husbands are honest and generous, constant and true, and who are apt to grumble because your next-door neighbors have started a carriage, while you are fain to be content with eighteen-penny airings in vehicles procured at the nearest cab-stand, stop and think of this wretched girl, who in this hour of desolation recalled a thousand little wrongs she had done to her husband, and would have laid herself under his feet to be walked over by him could she have thus atoned for her petty tyrannies, her petty caprices. Think of her in her loneliness, with her heart yearning to go back to the man she loved, and with her love arrayed against herself, and pleading for him. She changed her mind a hundred times during that four hours journey, sometimes thinking that she would go back by the next train, and then again remembering that her first impulse had been, perhaps, after all, only too correct, and that John Mellish’s heart had turned against her in the cruel humiliation of that morning’s discovery.

Have you ever tried to imagine the anger of a person whom you have never seen angry? Have you ever called up the image of a face that has never looked on you except in love and gentleness, and invested that familiar countenance with the blank sternness of estrangement? Aurora did this. She acted over and over again in her weary brain the scene that might have taken place between her husband and herself. She remembered that scene in the hackneyed stage-play, which everybody affects to ridicule, and secretly weeps at. She remembered Mrs. Haller and the Stranger, the children, the countess, the cottage, the jewels, the parchments, and all the old familiar properties of that well-known fifth act in the simple social tragedy, and she pictured to herself John Mellish retiring into some distant country with his rheumatic trainer Langley, and becoming a misanthropical hermit, after the manner of the injured German.

What was her life to be henceforth? She shut her eyes upon that blank future.

“I will go back to my father,” she thought; “I will go back to him again, as I went before. But this time there shall be no falsehoods, no equivocations, and this time nothing shall tempt me to leave him again.”

Amid all her perplexities, she clung to the thought that Lucy and Talbot would help her. She would appeal to passionless Talbot Bulstrode in behalf of her poor heart-broken John.

“Talbot will tell me what is right and honorable to be done,” she thought. “I will hold by what he says. He shall be the arbiter of my future.”

I do not believe that Aurora had ever entertained any very passionate devotion for the handsome Cornishman, but it is very certain that she had always respected him. It may be that any love she had felt for him had grown out of that very respect, and that her reverence for his character was made all the greater by the contrast between him and the base-born schemer for whom her youth had been sacrificed. She had submitted to the decree which had separated her from her affianced lover, for she had believed in its justice; and she was ready now to submit to any decision pronounced by the man in whose sense of honor she had unbounded confidence.

She thought of all these things again, and again, and again, while the farmers talked of sheep and turnips, of Thorley’s food, Swedes, and beans, and corn, and clover, and of mysterious diseases, which they discussed gravely, under such terms as “red gum,” “finger and toe,” etc. They alternated this talk with a dash of turf scandal; and even in the all-absorbing perplexities of her domestic sorrows Mrs. Mellish could have turned fiercely upon these innocent farmers when they pooh-poohed John’s stable, and made light of the reputation of her namesake the bay filly, and declared that no horse that came out of the squire’s stables was ever anything better than a plater or a screw.

The journey came to an end, only too quickly it seemed to Aurora — too quickly, for every mile widened the gulf she had set between herself and the home she loved; every moment only brought the realization of her loss more fully home to her mind.

“I will abide by Talbot Bulstrode’s advice,” she kept saying to herself; indeed, this thought was the only reed to which she clung in her trouble. She was not a strong-minded woman. She had the generous, impulsive nature which naturally turns to others for help and comfort. Secretiveness had no part in her organization, and the one concealment of her life had been a perpetual pain and grief to her.

It was past eight o’clock when she found herself alone amid the bustle and confusion of the King’s Cross terminus. She sent a porter for a cab, and ordered the man to drive to Half-Moon street. It was only a few days since she had met Lucy and Talbot at Felden Woods, and she knew that Mr. Bulstrode and his wife were detained in town, waiting for the prorogation of the House.

It was Saturday evening, and therefore a holiday for the young advocate of the Cornish miners and their rights; but Talbot spent his leisure among Blue-books and Parliamentary Minutes, and poor Lucy, who might have been shining, a pale star, at some crowded conversazione, was compelled to forego the pleasure of struggling upon the staircase of one of those wise individuals who insist upon inviting their acquaintances to pack themselves into the smallest given space consistent with the preservation of life, and trample upon each other’s lace flounces and varnished boots with smiling equanimity. Perhaps, in the universal fitness of things, even these fashionable evenings have a certain solemn purpose, deeply hidden under considerable surface-frivolity. It may be that they serve as moral gymnasia, in which the thews and sinews of social amenity are racked and tortured, with a view to their increased power of endurance. It is good for a man to have his favorite corn trodden upon, and yet be compelled to smile under the torture; and a woman may learn her first great lesson in fortitude from the destruction of fifty guineas’ worth of Mechlin, and the necessity of assuring the destroyer that she is rather gratified than otherwise by the sacrifice. Noblesse oblige. It is good to “suffer and be strong.” Cold coffee and tepid ice-cream may not be the most strengthening or delightful of food, but there may be a moral diet provided at these social gatherings which is not without its usefulness.

Lucy willingly abandoned her own delights, for she had that lady-like appreciation of society which had been a part of her education. Her placid nature knew no abnormal tendencies. She liked the amusements that other girls of her position liked. She had none of the eccentric predilections which had been so fatal to her cousin. She was not like that lovely and illustrious Spanish lady who is said to love the cirque better than the opera, and to have a more intense appreciation of a series of flying plunges through tissue-paper-covered hoops than of the most elaborate fioriture of tenor or soprano. She gave up something, therefore, in resigning the stereotyped gayeties of the London season. But, Heaven knows, it was very pleasant to her to make the sacrifice. Her inclinations were fatted lambs, which she offered willingly upon the altar of her idol. She was never happier than when sitting by her husband’s side, making extracts from the Blue-books, to be quoted in some pamphlet that he was writing; or if she was ever happier, it was only when she sat in the ladies’ gallery, straining her eyes athwart the floriated iron fretwork, which screened her from any wandering glances of distracted members, in her vain efforts to see her husband in his place on the government benches, and very rarely seeing more than the crown of Mr. Bulstrode’s hat.

She sat by Talbot’s side upon this evening, busy with some petty needle-work, and listening with patient attention to her husband’s perusal of the proof-sheets of his last pamphlet. It was a noble specimen of the stately and ponderous style of writing, and it abounded in crushing arguments and magnificent climaxes, which utterly annihilated somebody (Lucy did n’t exactly make out who), and most incontrovertibly established something, though Mrs. Bulstrode could n’t quite understand what. It was enough for her that he had written that wonderful composition, and that it was his rich baritone voice that rolled out the studied Johnsonianisms. If he had pleased to read Greek to her, she would have thought it pleasant to listen. Indeed, there were pet passages of Homer which Mr. Bulstrode now and then loved to recite to his wife, and which the little hypocrite pretended to admire. No cloud had darkened the calm heaven of Lucy’s married life. She loved and was beloved. It was a part of her nature to love in a reverential attitude, and she had no wish to approach nearer to her idol. To sit at her sultan’s feet, and replenish the rosewater in his chibouque; to watch him while he slept, and wave the punkah above his seraphic head; to love, and admire, and pray for him, made up the sum of her heart’s desire.

It was close upon nine o’clock when Mr. Bulstrode was interrupted in the very crowning sentence of his peroration by a double knock at the street-door. The houses in Half-Moon street are small, and Talbot flung down his proof-sheet with a gesture expressive of considerable irritation. Lucy looked up, half sympathizingly, half apologetically, at her lord and master. She held herself in a manner responsible for his ease and comfort.

“Who can it be, dear?” she murmured; “at such a time, too!”

“Some annoyance or other, I dare say, my dear,” answered Talbot. “But, whoever it is, I won’t see them to-night. I suppose, Lucy, I’ve given you a pretty fair idea of the effect of this upon my honorable friend, the member for —”

Before Mr. Bulstrode could name the borough of which his honorable friend was the representative, a servant announced that Mrs. Mellish was waiting below to see the master of the house.

“Aurora!” exclaimed Lucy, starting from her seat and dropping the fairy implements of her work in a little shower upon the carpet; “Aurora!” It can’t be, surely? Why, Talbot, she only went back to Yorkshire a few days ago.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Mellish are both below, I suppose?” Mr. Bulstrode said to the servant.

“No, sir; Mrs. Mellish came alone in a cab from the station, I believe. Mrs. Mellish is in the library, sir. I asked her to walk up stairs, but she requested to see you alone, sir, if you please.”

“I’ll come directly,” answered Talbot. “Tell Mrs. Mellish I will be with her immediately.”

The door closed upon the servant, and Lucy ran toward it, eager to hurry to her cousin.

“Poor Aurora,” she said; “there must be something wrong, surely. Uncle Archibald has been taken ill, perhaps; he was not looking well when we left Felden. I’ll go to her, Talbot; I’m sure she’d like to see me first.”

“No, Lucy, no,” answered Mr. Bulstrode, laying his hand upon the door, and standing between it and his wife; “I had rather you did n’t see your cousin until I have seen her. It will be better for me to see her first.” His face was very grave, and his manner almost stern as he said this. Lucy shrank from him as if he had wounded her. She understood him very vaguely, it is true, but she understood that he had some doubt or suspicion of her cousin, and, for the first time in his life, Mr. Bulstrode saw an angry light kindled in his wife’s blue eyes.

“Why should you prevent my seeing Aurora?” Lucy asked; “she is the best and dearest girl in the world. Why should n’t I see her?”

Talbot Bulstrode stared in blank amazement at his mutinous wife.

“Be reasonable, my dear Lucy,” he answered very mildly; “I hope always to be able to respect your cousin — as much as I respect you. But if Mrs. Mellish leaves her husband in Yorkshire, and comes to London without his permission — for he would never permit her to come alone — she must explain to me why she does so before I can suffer my wife to receive her.”

Poor Lucy’s fair head drooped under this reproof.

She remembered her last conversation with her cousin — that conversation in which Aurora had spoken of some far-off day of trouble that might bring her to ask for comfort and shelter in Half-Moon street. Had the day of trouble come already?

“Was it wrong of Aurora to come alone, Talbot, dear?” Lucy asked, meekly.

“Was it wrong?” repeated Mr. Bulstrode, fiercely. “Would it be wrong for you to go tearing from here to Cornwall, child?”

He was irritated by the mere imagination of such an outrage, and he looked at Lucy as if he half suspected her of some such intention.

“But Aurora may have had some very particular reason, dear?” pleaded his wife.

“I can not imagine any reason powerful enough to justify such a proceeding,” answered Talbot; “but I shall be better able to judge of that when I’ve heard what Mrs. Mellish has to say. Stay here, Lucy, till I send for you.”

“Yes, Talbot.”

She obeyed as submissively as a child; but she lingered near the door, after her husband had closed it upon her, with a mournful yearning in her heart. She wanted to go to her cousin, and comfort her, if she had need of comfort. She dreaded the effect of her husband’s cold and passionless manner upon Aurora’s impressionable nature.

Mr. Bulstrode went down to the library to receive his kinswoman. It would have been strange if he had failed to remember that Christmas evening nearly two years before, upon which he had gone down to the shadowy room at Felden, with every hope of his heart crushed, to ask for comfort from the woman he loved. It would have been strange if, in the brief interval that elapsed between his leaving the drawing-room and entering the library, his mind had not flown back to that day of desolation. If there was any infidelity to Lucy in that sharp thrill of pain that pierced his heart as the old memory came back, the sin was as short-lived as the agony which it brought with it. He was able now to say, in all singleness of heart, “I made a wise choice, and I shall never repent of having made it.”

The library was a small apartment at the back of the dining-room. It was dimly lighted, for Aurora had lowered the lamp. She did not want Mr. Bulstrode to see her face.

“My dear Mrs. Mellish,” said Talbot, gravely, “I am so surprised at this visit that I scarcely know how to say I am glad to see you. I fear something must have happened to cause your travelling alone. John is ill, perhaps, or —”

He might have said much more if Aurora had not interrupted him by casting herself upon her knees before him, and looking up at him with a pale, agonized face, that seemed almost ghastly in the dim lamplight.

It was impossible to describe the look of horror that came over Talbot Bulstrode’s face as she did this. It was the Felden scene over again. He came to her in the hope that she would justify herself, and she tacitly acknowledged her humiliation.

She was a guilty woman, then — a guilty creature, whom it would be his painful duty to cast out of that pure household. She was a poor, lost, polluted wretch, who must not be admitted into the holy atmosphere of a Christian gentleman’s home.

“Mrs. Mellish! Mrs. Mellish!” he cried, “what is the meaning of this? Why do you give me this horrible pain again? Why do you insist upon humiliating yourself and me by such a scene as this?”

“Oh, Talbot, Talbot!” answered Aurora, “I come to you because you are good and honorable. I am a desolate, wretched woman, and I want your help — I want your advice. I will abide by it; I will, Talbot Bulstrode, so help me Heaven!”

Her voice was broken by her sobs. In her passionate grief and confusion she forgot that it was just possible such an appeal as this might be rather bewildering in its effect upon Talbot. But perhaps, even amid his bewilderment, the young Cornishman saw, or fancied he saw, something in Aurora’s manner which had no fellowship with guilt, or with such guilt as he had at first dreaded. I imagine that it must have been so, for his voice was softer and his manner kinder when he next addressed her.

“Aurora,” he said, “for pity’s sake be calm. Why have you left Mellish? What is the business in which I can help or advise you? Be calm, my dear girl, and I will try and understand you. God knows how much I wish to be a friend to you, for I stand in a brother’s place, you know, my dear, and demand a brother’s right to question your actions. I am sorry you came up to town alone, because such a step was calculated to compromise you; but if you will be calm, and tell me why you came, I may be able to understand your motives. Come, Aurora, try and be calm.”

She was still on her knees, sobbing hysterically. Talbot would have summoned his wife to her assistance, but he could not bear to see the two women associated until he had discovered the cause of Aurora’s agitation.

He poured some water into a glass, and gave it her. He placed her in an easy-chair near the open window, and then walked up and down the room until she had recovered herself.

“Talbot Bulstrode,” she said, quietly, after a long pause, “I want you to help me in the crisis of my life. I must be candid with you, therefore, and tell you that which I would have died rather than tell you two years ago. You remember the night upon which you left Felden?”

“Remember it? Yes, yes.”

“The secret which separated us then, Talbot, was the one secret of my life — the secret of my disobedience, the secret of my father’s sorrow. You asked me to give you an account of that one year which was missing out of the history of my life. I could not do so, Talbot; I would not! My pride revolted against the horrible humiliation. If you had discovered the secret yourself, and had accused me of the disgraceful truth, I would have attempted no denial; but with my own lips to utter the hateful story — no, no, I could have borne anything better than that. But now that my secret is common property, in the keeping of police officers and stable-boys, I can afford to tell you all. When I left the school in the Rue Saint Dominique, I ran away to marry my father’s groom!”

“Aurora!”

Talbot Bulstrode dropped into the chair nearest him, and sat blankly staring at his wife’s cousin. Was this the secret humiliation which had prostrated her at his feet in the chamber at Felden Woods?

“Oh, Talbot, how could I have told you this? How can I tell you now why I did this mad and wicked thing, blighting the happiness of my youth by my own act, and bringing shame and grief upon my father? I had no romantic, overwhelming love for this man. I can not plead the excuses which some women urge for their madness. I had only a school-girl’s sentimental fancy for his dashing manner, only a school-girl’s frivolous admiration of his handsome face. I married him because he had dark blue eyes, and long eye-lashes, and white teeth, and brown hair. He had insinuated himself into a kind of intimacy with me by bringing me all the empty gossip of the race-course, by extra attention to my favorite horses, by rearing a litter of puppies for me. All these things brought about associations between us; he was always my companion in my rides; and he contrived before long to tell me his story. Bah! why should I weary you with it?” cried Aurora, scornfully. “He was a prince in disguise, of course; he was a gentleman’s son; his father had kept his hunters; he was at war with fortune; he had been ill used and trampled down in the battle of life. His talk was something to this effect, and I believed him. Why should I disbelieve him? I had lived all my life in an atmosphere of truth. My governess and I talked perpetually of the groom’s romantic story. She was a silly woman, and encouraged my folly; out of mere stupidity, I believe, and with no suspicion of the mischief she was doing. We criticised the groom’s handsome face, his white hands, his aristocratic manners. I mistook insolence for aristocracy; Heaven help me! And, as we saw scarcely any society at that time, I compared my father’s groom with the few guests who came to Felden, and the town-bred impostor profited by comparison with rustic gentlemen. Why should I stay to account to you for my folly, Talbot Bulstrode? I could never succeed in doing so, though I talked for a week; I can not account to myself for my madness. I can only look back to that horrible time, and wonder why I was mad.”

“My poor Aurora! my poor Aurora!”

He spoke in the pitying tone with which he might have comforted her had she been a child. He was thinking of her in her childish ignorance, exposed to the insidious advances of an unscrupulous schemer, and his heart bled for the motherless girl.

“My father found some letters written by this man, and discovered that his daughter had affianced herself to his groom. He made this discovery while I was out riding with James Conyers — the groom’s name was Conyers — and when I came home there was a fearful scene between us. I was mad enough and wicked enough to defend my conduct, and to reproach my father with the illiberality of his sentiments. I went even farther: I reminded him that the house of Floyd and Floyd had had a very humble origin. He took me to Paris upon the following day. I thought myself cruelly treated. I revolted against the ceremonial monotony of the pension; I hated the studies, which were ten times more difficult than anything I had ever experienced with my governess; I suffered terribly from the conventual seclusion, for I had been used to perfect freedom among the country roads round Felden; and, amid all this, the groom pursued me with letters and messages, for he had followed me to Paris, and spent his money recklessly in bribing the servants and hangers-on of the school. He was playing for a high stake, and he played so desperately that he won. I ran away from school, and married him at Dover, within eight or nine hours of my escape from the Rue Saint Dominique.”

She buried her face in her hands, and was silent for some time.

“Heaven have pity upon my wretched ignorance!” she said at last; “the illusion under which I had married this man ended in about a week. At the end of that time I discovered that I was the victim of a mercenary wretch, who meant to use me to the uttermost as a means of wringing money from my father. For some time I submitted, and my father paid, and paid dearly, for his daughter’s folly; but he refused to receive the man I had married, or to see me until I separated myself from that man. He offered the groom an income on the condition of his going to Australia, and resigning all association with me for ever. But the man had a higher game to play. He wanted to bring about a reconciliation with my father, and he thought that in due time that tender father’s resolution would have yielded to the force of his love. It was little better than a year after our marriage that I made a discovery that transformed me in one moment from a girl into a woman — a revengeful woman, perhaps, Mr. Bulstrode. I discovered that I had been wronged, deceived, and outraged by a wretch who laughed at my ignorant confidence in him. I had learned to hate the man long before this occurred; I had learned to despise his shallow trickeries, his insolent pretensions; but I do not think I felt his deeper infamy the less keenly for that. We were travelling in the south of France, my husband playing the great gentleman upon my father’s money, when this discovery was made by me — or not by me; for it was forced upon me by a woman who knew my story and pitied me. Within half an hour of obtaining this knowledge, I acted upon it. I wrote to James Conyers, telling him I had discovered that which gave me the right to call upon the law to release me from him; and if I refrained from doing so, it was for my father’s sake, and not for his. I told him that so long as he left me unmolested, and kept my secret, I would remit him money from time to time. I told him that I left him to the associations he had chosen for himself, and that my only prayer was that God, in His mercy, might grant me complete forgetfulness of him. I left this letter for him with the concierge, and quitted the hotel in such a manner as to prevent his obtaining any trace of the way I had gone. I stopped in Paris for a few days, waiting for a reply to a letter I had written to my father, telling him that James Conyers was dead. Perhaps that was the worst sin of my life, Talbot. I deceived my father; but I believed that I was doing a wise and merciful thing in setting his mind at rest. He would have never been happy so long as he had believed the man lived. You understand all now, Talbot,” she said mournfully. “You remember the morning at Brighton?”

“Yes, yes; and the newspaper with the marked paragraph — the report of the jockey’s death.”

“That report was false, Talbot Bulstrode,” cried Aurora. “James Conyers was not killed.”

Talbot’s face grew suddenly pale. He began to understand something of the nature of that trouble which had brought Aurora to him.

“What! he was still living, then?” he said, anxiously.

“Yes; until the night before last?”

“But where — where has he been all this time?”

“During the last ten days at Mellish Park.”

She told him the terrible story of the murder. The trainer’s death had not yet been reported in the London papers. She told him the dreadful story; and then, looking up at him with an earnest, imploring face, as she might have done had he been indeed her brother, she entreated him to help and counsel her in this terrible hour of need.

“Teach me how to do what is best for my dear love,” she said. “Don’t think of me or my happiness, Talbot; think only of him. I will make any sacrifice; I will submit to anything. I want to atone to my poor dear for all the misery I have brought upon him.”

Talbot Bulstrode did not make any reply to this earnest appeal. The administrative powers of his mind were at work; he was busy summing up facts, and setting them before him, in order to grapple with them fairly, and he had no attention to waste upon sentiment or emotion. He was walking up and down the room, with his eyebrows knitted sternly over his cold gray eyes, and his head bent.

“How many people know this secret, Aurora?” he asked, presently.

“I can’t tell you that; but I fear it must be very generally known,” answered Mrs. Mellish, with a shuddering recollection of the softy’s insolence. “I heard of the discovery that had been made from a hanger-on of the stables, a man who hates me — a man whom I— had a misunderstanding with.”

“Have you any idea who it was that shot this Conyers?”

“No, not the least idea.”

“You do not even guess at any one?”

“No.”

Talbot took a few more turns up and down the small apartment, in evident trouble and perplexity of mind. He left the room presently, and called at the foot of the staircase:

“Lucy, my dear, come down to your cousin.”

I’m afraid Mrs. Bulstrode must have been lurking somewhere about the outside of the drawing-room door, for she flew down the stairs at the sound of the strong voice, and was by her husband’s side two or three seconds after he had spoken.

“Oh, Talbot,” she said, “how long you have been! I thought you would never send for me. What has been the matter with my poor darling?”

“Go in to her, and comfort her, my dear,” Mr. Bulstrode answered, gravely; “she has had enough trouble, Heaven knows, poor girl. Don’t ask her any questions, Lucy, but make her as comfortable as you can, and give her the best room you can find for her. She will stay with us as long as she remains in town.”

“Dear, dear Talbot,” murmured the young Cornishman’s grateful worshipper, “how kind you are!”

“Kind!” cried Mr. Bulstrode; “she has need of friends, Lucy; and, God knows, I will act the brother’s part toward her, faithfully and bravely. Yes, bravely,” he added, raising his head with an almost defiant gesture as he slowly ascended the stairs.

What was the dark cloud which he saw brooding so fatally over the far horizon? He dared not think of what it was — he dared not even acknowledge its presence; but there was a sense of trouble and horror in his breast that told him the shadow was there.

Lucy Bulstrode ran into the library, and flung herself upon her cousin’s breast, and wept with her. She did not ask the nature of the sorrow which had brought Aurora an unexpected and uninvited guest to that modest little dwelling-house. She only knew that her cousin was in trouble, and, that it was her happy privilege to offer her shelter and consolation. She would have fought a sturdy battle in defence of this privilege; but she adored her husband for the generosity which had granted it to her without a struggle. For the first time in her life, poor, gentle Lucy took a new position with her cousin. It was her turn to protect Aurora; it was her turn to display a pretty motherly tenderness for the desolate creature whose aching head rested on her bosom.

The West-End clocks were striking three, in the dead middle of the night, when Mrs. Mellish fell into a feverish slumber, even in her sleep repeating again and again, “My poor John! my poor, dear love! what will become of him! my own faithful darling!”

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31