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her to the earth, as if stricken by sudden death. What, in the name of heaven, could this secret be, which was in the keeping of a servant, and yet could not be told to him ? He bit his lip till his strong teeth met upon the quivering flesh, in the silent agony of that thought. What could it be? He had sworn, only a minute before, to trust in her blindly to the end; and yet, and yet, His massive frame shook from head to heel in that noiseless struggle; doubt and despair rose like twin-demons in his soul; but he wrestled with them, and overcame them; and, turning with a white face to his wife, said quietly,
“I will press these painful questions no further, Aurora. I will write to Pastern, and tell him that the man will not suit us; and—”
He was rising to leave her bedside, when she laid her hand upon his
“Don't write to Mr. Pastern, John,” she said; "the man will suit you very well, I dare say. I had rather he came.”
“ You wish him to come here." “ Yes.” “But he will annoy you; he will try to extort money from you."
“He would do that in any case, since he is alive. I thought that he was dead.”
“ Then you really wish him to come here ?” “I do."
John Mellish left his wife's room inexpressibly relieved. The secret could not be so very terrible after all, since she was willing that the man who knew it should come to Mellish Park; where the was at least a remote chance of his revealing it to her husband. Perhaps, after all, this mystery involved others rather than herself, her father's commercial integrity--her mother? He had heard very little of her mother's history; perhaps she- Pshaw, why weary himself with speculative surmises ? he had promised to trust her, ard the hour had come in which he was called upon to keep his promise. He wrote to Mr. Pastern, accepting his recommendation of James Conyers, and waited rather impatiently to see what kind of man the trainer was.
He received a letter from Conyers, very well written and worded, to the effect that he would arrive at Mellish Park upon the 3d of July.
Aurora had recovered from her brief hysterical attack when this letter arrived; but as she was still weak and out of spirits, her medical man recommended change of air; so Mr. and Mrs. Mellish drove off to Harrogate upon the 28th of June, leaving Mrs. Powell behind them at the park.
The ensign's widow had been scrupulously kept out of Aurora's room during her short illness; being held at bay by John, who coolly shut the door in the lady's sympathetic face, telling her that he'd wait upon his wife himself, and that when he wanted female assistance he would ring for Mrs. Mellish's maid.
Now Mrs. Walter Powell, being afflicted with that ravenous curiosity common to people who live in other people's houses, felt herself deeply
injured by this line of conduct. There were mysteries and secrets afloat, and she was not to be allowed to discover them; there was a skeleton in the house, and she was not to anatomise the bony horror. She scented trouble and sorrow as carnivorous animals scent their
and yet she who hated Aurora was not to be allowed to riot at the unnatural feast.
Why is it that the dependents in a household are so feverishly inquisitive about the doings and sayings, the manners and customs, the joys and sorrows, of those who employ them? Is it that, having abnegated for themselves all active share in life, they take an unhealthy interest in those who are in the thick of the strife? Is it because, being cut off in a great measure by the nature of their employment from family ties and family pleasures, they feel a malicious delight in all family trials and vexations, and the ever-recurring breezes which disturb the domestic atmosphere. Remember this, husbands and wives, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, when you quarrel. Your servants enjoy the fun. Surely that recollection ought to be enough to keep you for ever peaceful and friendly. Your servants listen at your doors, and repeat' your spiteful speeches in the kitchen, and watch you while they wait at table, and understand every sarcasm, every innuendo, every look, as well as those at whom the cruel glances and the stinging words are aimed. They understand your sulky silence, your studied and overacted politeness. The most polished form your hate and anger can take is as transparent to those household spies as if you threw knives at each other, or pelted your enemy with the side-dishes and vegetables, after the fashion of disputants in a pantomime. Nothing that is done in the parlour is lost upon these quiet, well-behaved watchers from the kitchen. They laugh at you; nay worse, they pity you. They discuss your affairs, and make out your income, and settle what you can afford to do and what you can't afford to do; they prearrange the disposal of your wife's fortune, and look prophetically forward to the day when you will avail yourself of the advantages of the new Bankruptcy Act. They know why you live on bad terms with your eldest daughter, and why your favourite son was turned out of doors; and they take a morbid interest in every dismal secret of your life. You don't allow them followers; you look blacker than thunder if you see Mary's sister or John's poor old mother sitting meekly in your hall; you are surprised if the postman brings them letters, and attribute the fact to the pernicious system of overeducating the masses; you shut them from their homes and their kindred, their lovers and their friends; you deny them books, you grudge them a peep at your newspaper; and then you up your eyes and wonder at them because they are inquisitive, and because the staple of their talk is scandal and gossip.
Mrs. Walter Powell, having been treated by most of her employers, as a species of upper servant, had acquired all the instincts of a servant; and she determined to leave no means untried in order to discover the cause of Aurora's illness, which the doctor had darkly hinted to her had
more to do with the mind than the body. Jehn Mellish had ordered a carpenter to repair the lodge at the north gate, for the accommodation of James Conyers; and John's old trainer, Langley, was to receive his colleague and introduce him to the stables.
The new trainer made his appearance at the lodge-gates in the glowing July sunset; he was accompanied by no less a person than Steeve Hargraves the Softy, who had been lurking about the station upon the look out for a job, and who had been engaged by Mr. Conyers to carry his portmanteau.
To the surprise of the trainer, Stephen Hargraves set down his burden at the park gates.
“You'll have to find some one else to carry it th’ rest 'tro-ad,” he said, touching his greasy cap, and extending his broad palm to receive the expected payment.
Mr. James Conyers was rather a dashing fellow, with no small amount of that quality which is generally termed "swagger," so he turned sharply round upon the Softy and asked him what the devil he meant.
“I mean that I mayn't go inside yon gates," muttered Stephen Hargraves; “I mean that I've been turned out of yon place that I've lived in, man and boy, for forty year,--turned out like a dog, neck and
Mr. Conyers threw away the stump of his cigar and stared superciliously at the Softy.
“What does the man mean ?” he asked of the woman who had opened
Why, poor fellow, he's a bit fond, sir, and him and Mrs. Mellish didn't get on very well: she has a rare spirit, and I have heard that she horsewhipped him for beating her favourite dog. Any ways, master turned him out of his service.” “Because my lady had horsewhipped him. Servants'-hall justice all
’ the world over,” said the trainer, laughing, and lighting a second cigar from a metal fusee-box in his waistcoat-pocket.
“Yes, that's justice, aint it?" the Softy said eagerly. “You wouldn't like to be turned out of a place as you'd lived in forty year, would you ? But Mrs. Mellish has a rare spirit, bless her pretty face !" The blessing enunciated by Mr. Stephen Hargraves had such a very
a ominous sound, that the new trainer, who was evidently a shrewd, observant fellow, took his cigar from his mouth on purpose to stare at him. The white face, lighted up by a pair of red eyes with a dim glimmer in them, was by no means the most agreeable of countenances; but Mr. Conyers looked at the man for some moments, holding him by the collar of his coat in order to do so with more deliberation : then pushing the Softy away with an affably contemptuous gesture, he said, laughing,
“You're a character, my friend, it strikes me; and not too safe a character either. I'm dashed if I should like to offend you. There's
a shilling for your trouble, my man," he added, tossing the money into Steeve's extended palm with careless dexterity.
“I suppose I can leave my portmanteau here till to-morrow, ma'am ?” he said, turning to the woman at the lodge. “I'd carry it down to the house myself if I wasn't lame."
He was such a handsome fellow, and had such an easy, careless manner, that the simple Yorkshire woman was quite subdued by his fascinations.
“Leave it here, sir, and welcome,” she said, curtseying, “and my master shall take it to the house for you as soon as he comes in. Begging your pardon, sir, but I suppose you're the new gentleman that's expected in the stables ?”
“Then I was to tell you, sir, that they've fitted up the north lodge for you; but you was to please go straight to the house, and the housekeeper was to make you comfortable and give you a bed for to-night.”
Mr. Conyers nodded, thanked her, wished her good night, and limped slowly away, through the shadows of the evening, and under the shelter of the over-arching trees. He stepped aside from the broad carriage-drive on to the dewy turf that bordered it, choosing the softest, mossiest places with a sy barite's instinct. Look at him as he takes his slow way under those glorious branches, in the holy stillness of the summer sunset, his face sometimes lighted by the low, lessening rays, sometimes dark with the shadows from the leaves above his head.
He is wonderfully bandsome—wonderfully and perfectly handsomne—the very perfection of physical beauty; faultless in proportion, as if each line in his face and form had been measured by the sculptor's rule, and carved by the sculptor's chisel. He is a man about whose beauty there can be no dispute, whose perfection servant-maids and duchesses must alike confess-albeit they are not bound to admire; yet it is rather a sensual type of beauty, this splendour of form and colour, unallied to any special charm of expression. Look at him now, as he stops to rest, leaning against the trunk of a tree, and smoking his big cigar with easy enjoyment. He is thinking. His dark-blue eyes, deeper in colour by reason of the thick black lashes which fringe them, are half closed, and have a dreamy, semi-sentimental expression, which might lead you to suppose the man was musing upon the beauty of the summer sunset. He is thinking of his losses on the Chester Cup, the wages he is to get from John Mellish, and the perquisites likely to appertain to the situation. You give him credit for thoughts to match with his dark, violet-hued eyes, and the exquisite modelling of his mouth and chin ; you give him a mind as æsthetically perfect as his face and figure, and you recoil on discovering what a vulgar every-day sword may lurk under that beautiful scabbard. Mr. James Conyers is, perhaps, no worse than other men of his station ; but he is decidedly no better. He is only very much handsomer; and you have no right to be angry with him because his opinions and sentiments are exactly what they would have been if he had had red hair and
a pug nose. With what wonderful wisdom has George Eliot told us that people are not any better because they have long eyelashes! Yet it must be that there is something anomalous in this outward beauty and inward ugliness; for, in spite of all experience, we revolt against it, and are incredulous to the last, believing that the palace which is outwardly so splendid can scarcely be ill furnished within. Heaven help the woman who sells her heart for a handsome face, and awakes, when the bargain has been struck, to discover the foolishness of such an exchange.
It took Mr. Conyers a long while to walk from the lodge to the house. I do not know how, technically, to describe his lameness. He had fallen, with his horse, in the Prussian steeple-chase, wbich had so nearly cost him his life, and his left leg had been terribly injured. The bones had been set by wonderful German surgeons, who put the shattered leg together as if it had been a Chinese puzzle, but who, with all their skill, could not prevent the contraction of the sinews, which had left the jockey lamed for life, and no longer fit to ride in any race whatever. He
of the middle height, and weighed something over eleven stone, and had never ridden except in Continental steeple-chases.
Mr. James Conyer's paused a few paces from the house, and gravely contemplated the irregular pile of buildings before him. “A snug crib,” he muttered ; " plenty of tin hereabouts, I should
“ think, from the look of the place.”
Being ignorant of the geography of the neighbourhood, and being, moreover, by no means afflicted by an excess of modesty, Mr. Conyers went straight to the principal door, and rang the bell sacred to visitors and the family.
He was admitted by a grave old man-servant, who, after deliberately inspecting his brown shooting-coat, coloured shirt-front, and felt hat, asked him, with considerable asperity, what he was pleased to want.
Mr. Conyers explained that he was the new trainer, and that he wished to see the housekeeper; but he had hardly finished doing so, when a door in an angle of the hall was softly opened, and Mrs. Walter Powell peeped out of the snug little apartment sacred to her hours of privacy.
“Perhaps the young man will be so good as to step in here," she said, addressing herself apparently to space, but indirectly to James Conyers.
The young man took off his hat, uncovering a mass of luxuriant brown curls, and limped across the hall in obedience to Mrs. Powell's invitation.
“I dare say I shall be able to give you any information you require."
James Conyers smiled, wondering whether the bilious-looking party, as he mentally designated Mrs. Powell, could give him any information about the York summer meeting; but he bowed politely, and said he merely wanted to know where he was to hang out—he stopped and apologised—where he was to sleep that night, and whether there were any letters for him. But Mrs. Powell was by no means inclined to let