Aurora Floyd, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon


What more have I to tell of this simple drama of domestic life? The end has come. The element of tragedy which has been so intermingled in the history of a homely Yorkshire squire and his wife is henceforth to be banished from the record of their lives. The dark story which began in Aurora Floyd’s folly, and culminated in the crime of a half-witted serving-man, has been told from the beginning to the end. It would be worse than useless to linger upon the description of a trial which took place at York at the Michaelmas Assizes. The evidence against Stephen Hargraves was conclusive; and the gallows outside York Castle ended the life of a man who had never been either help or comfort to any one of his fellow-creatures. There was an attempt made to set up a plea of irresponsibility upon the part of the softy, and the sobriquet which had been given him was urged in his defence; but a set of matter-of-fact jurymen, looking at the circumstances of the murder, saw nothing in it but a most cold-blooded assassination, perpetrated by a wretch whose sole motive was gain; and the verdict which found Stephen Hargraves guilty was tempered by no recommendation to mercy. The condemned murderer protested his innocence up to the night before his execution, and upon that night made a full confession of his crime, as is generally the custom of his kind. He related how he had followed James Conyers into the wood upon the night of his assignation with Aurora, and how he had watched and listened during the interview. He had shot the trainer in the back while Mr. Conyers sat by the water’s -edge looking over the notes in the pocket-book, and he had used a button off his waistcoat instead of wadding, not finding anything else suitable for the purpose. He had hidden the waistcoat and pocket-book in a rat-hole in the wainscot of the murdered man’s chamber, and, being dismissed from the lodge suddenly, had been compelled to leave his booty behind him rather than excite suspicion. It was thus that he had returned upon the night on which Talbot found him, meaning to secure his prize and start for Liverpool at six o’clock the following morning.

Aurora and her husband left Mellish Park immediately after the committal of the softy to York prison. They went to the south of France, accompanied by Archibald Floyd, and once more travelled together through scenes which were overshadowed by no sorrowful association. They lingered long at Nice; and here Talbot and Lucy joined them, with an impedimental train of luggage and servants, and a Normandy nurse with a blue-eyed girl-baby. It was at Nice that another baby was born, a black-eyed child — a boy, I believe — but wonderfully like that solemn-faced infant which Mrs. Alexander Floyd carried to the widowed banker two-and-twenty years before at Felden Woods.

It is almost supererogatory to say that Samuel Prodder, the sea-captain, was cordially received by hearty John Mellish and his wife. He is to be a welcome visitor at the Park whenever he pleases to come; indeed, he is homeward bound from Barbadoes at this very time, his cabin-presses filled to overflowing with presents which he is carrying to Aurora in the way of chilis preserved in vinegar, guava jelly, the strongest Jamaica rum, and other trifles suitable for a lady’s acceptance. It may be some comfort to the gentlemen in Scotland Yard to know that John Mellish acted liberally to the detective, and gave him the full reward, although Talbot Bulstrode had been the captor of the softy.

So we leave Aurora, a little changed, a shade less defiantly bright, perhaps, but unspeakably beautiful and tender, bending over the cradle of her first-born; and though there are alterations being made at Mellish, and loose boxes for broodmares building upon the site of the north lodge, and a subscription tan-gallop being laid across Harper’s Common, I doubt if my heroine will care so much for horseflesh, or take quite so keen an interest in weight-for-age races as compared to handicaps as she has done in the days that are gone.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:50