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So Aurora Floyd talked of horses and dogs, and masters and governesses; of childish troubles that had afflicted her years before, and of girlish pleasures, which, in her normal state of mind, had been utterly forgotten. She seldom recognised Lucy or Mrs. Alexander, mistaking them for all kinds of unlikely people; but she never entirely forgot her father, and, indeed, always seemed to be conscious of his presence, and was perpetually appealing to him, imploring him to forgive her for some act of childish disobedience committed in those departed years of which she talked so much.

John Mellish had taken up his abode at the Grayhound Inn, in Croydon High Street, and drove every day to Felden Woods, leaving his phaeton at the park-gates, and walking up to the house to make his inquiries. The servants took notice of the big Yorkshireman's pale face, and set him down at once as “sweet” upon their young lady. They liked him a great deal better than Captain Bulstrode, who had been too “'igh” and “'aughty” for them. John flang his half-sovereigns right and left when he came to the hushed mansion in which Aurora lay, with loving friends about her. He held the footman who answered the door by the button-hole, and would have gladly paid the man half-a-crown a minute for his time while he asked anxious questions about Miss Floyd's health. Mr. Mellish was warmly sympathised with, therefore, in the servants' hall at Felden. His man had informed the banker's household how he was the best master in England, and how Mellish Park was a species of terrestrial Paradise, maintained for the benefit of trustworthy retainers; and Mr. Floyd's servants expressed a wish that their young lady might get well, and marry the "fair one,” as they called John. They came to the conclusion that there had been what they called “a split” between Miss Floyd and the Captain, and that he had gone off in a huff, which was like his impudence, seeing that their young lady would have hundreds of thousands of pounds by and by, and was good enough for a duke instead of a beggarly officer.

Talbot's letter to Mr. Floyd reached Felden Woods on the 27th of December; but it lay for some time unopened upon the library table. Archibald had scarcely heeded his intended son-in-law's disappearance in his anxiety about Aurora. When he did open the letter, Captain Bulstrode's words were almost meaningless to him, though he was just able to gather that the engagement had been broken; by his daughter's wish, as Talbot seemed to infer.

The banker's reply to this communication was very brief; he wrote:

“MY DEAR SIR,— Your letter arrived here some days since, but has only been opened by me this morning. I have laid it aside, to be replied to, D.v., at a future time. At present I am unable to attend to any thing. My daughter is seriously ill.

"Yours obediently,


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"Seriously ill!” Talbot Bulstrode sat for nearly an hour with the banker's letter in his hand, looking at those two words. How much or how little might the sentence mean? At one moment, remembering Archibald Floyd's devotion to his daughter, he thought that this serious illness was doubtless some very trifling business,-some feminine nervous attack, common to young ladies upon any hitch in their love-affairs; but five minutes afterwards he fancied that those words had an awful meaning -that Aurora was dying, dying of the shame and anguish of that interview in the little chamber at Felden.

Heaven above! what had he done? Had he murdered this beautiful creature, whom he loved a million times better than himself ? Had he killed her with those impalpable weapons, those sharp and cruel words which he had spoken on the 25th of December? He acted the scene over again and again, until the sense of outraged honour, then so strong upon him, seemed to grow dim and confused; and he began almost to wonder why he had quarrelled with Aurora. What if, after all, this secret involved only some school-girl's folly? No; the crouching figure and ghastly face gave the lie to that hope. The secret, whatever it might be

, was a matter of life and death to Aurora Floyd. He dared not try to guess what it was. He tried to close his mind against the surmises that would arise to him. In the first days that succeeded that terrible Christmas he determined to leave England. He would try to get some Government appointment that would take him away to the other end of the world, where he could never hear Aurora's name—never be enlightened as to the mystery that had separated them. But now, now that she was danger, perhaps,-how could he leave the country? How could he go away to some place where he might one day open the English newspapers and see her name among the list of deaths ?

Talbot was a dreary guest at Bulstrode Castle. His mother and his cousin Constance respected his pale face, and held themselves aloof from him in fear and trembling; but his father asked what the deuce was the matter with the boy, that he looked so chapfallen, and why he didn't take his gun and go out on the moors, and get an appetite for his dinner, like a Christian, instead of moping in his own rooms all day long biting his fingers' ends.

Once, and once only, did Lady Bulstrode allude to Aurora Floyd. “You asked Miss Floyd for an explanation, I suppose, Talbot ?" she



Yes, mother.” “And the result?

“Was the termination of our engagement. I had rather you would not speak to me of this subject again, if you please, mother."

Talbot took his gun, and went out upon the moors, as his father advised; but it was not to slaughter the last of the pheasants, but to think in peace of Aurora Floyd, that the young man went out. The low-lying clouds upon the moorlands seemed to shut him in like prison-walls. How


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many miles of desolate country lay between the dark expanse on which he stood and the red-brick mansion at Felden !--how many leafless hedgerows !-how many frozen streams! It was only a day's journey, certainly, by the Great Western ; but there was something cruel in the knowledge that half the length of England lay between the Kentish woods and that far angle of the British Isles upon which Castle Bulstrode reared its weather-beaten walls. The wail of mourning voices might be loud in Kent, and not a whisper of death reach the listening ears in Cornwall. How he envied the lowest servant at Felden, who knew day by day and hour by hour of the progress of the battle between Death and Aurora Floyd! And yet, after all, what was she to him? What did it matter to him if she were well or ill? The grave could never separate them more utterly than they had been separated from the very moment in which he discovered that she was not worthy to be his wife. He had done her no wrong; he had given her a full and fair opportunity of clearing herself from the doubtful shadow on her name; and she had been unable to do so. Nay, more, she had given him every reason to suppose, by her manner, that the shadow was even a darker one than he had feared. Was he to blame, then? Was it his fault if she were ill? Were his days to be misery, and his nights a burden, because of her? He struck the stock of his gun violently upon the ground at the thought, and thrust the ramrod down the barrel, and loaded his fowling-piece furiously with nothing; and then, casting himself at full length upon the stunted turf, lay there till the early dusk closed in about him, and the soft evening dew saturated his shooting-coat, and he was in a fair way to be stricken with rheumatic fever.

I might fill chapters with the foolish sufferings of this young man; but I fear he must have become very wearisome to my afflicted readers ; to those, at least, who have never suffered from this fever. The sharper the disease, the shorter its continuance; so Talbot will be better by and by, and will look back at his old self, and laugh at his old agonies. Surely this inconstancy of ours is the worst of all — this fickleness, by reason of which we cast off our former selves with no more compunction than we feel in flinging off a worn-out garment. Our poor thread bare selves, the shadows of what we were ! With what sublime, patronising pity, with what scornful compassion, we look back upon the helpless dead

, and gone creatures, and wonder that any thing so foolish could have been allowed to cumber the earth! Shall I feel the same contempt ten years hence for myself as I am to-day, as I feel to-day for myself as I was ten years ago? Will the loves and aspirations, the beliefs and desires of to-day, appear as pitiful then as the dead loves and dreams of the bygone decade? Shall I look back in pitying wonder, and think what a fool that young man was; although there was something candid and innocent in his very stupidity, after all? Who can wonder that the last visit to Paris killed Voltaire? Fancy the octogenarian looking round the national theatre, and seeing himself, through an endless vista of dim years, a young man again, paying his court to a"goat-faced cardinal,” and being beaten by De Rohan's lackeys in vright daylight.

Have you ever visited some still country town after a lapse of years, and wondered, 0 fast-living reader, to find the people you knew in your last visit still alive and thriving, with hair unbleached as yet, although you have lived and suffered whole centuries since then? Surely Providence gives us this sublimely egotistical sense of Time as a set-off against the brevity of our lives! I might make this book a companion in bulk to the Catalogue of the British Museum, if I were to tell all that Talbot Bulstrode felt and suffered in the month of January 1858,-if I were to anatomise the doubts and confusions and self-contradictions, the mental resolutions made one moment to be broken the next. I refrain, therefore, and will set down nothing but the fact, that on a certain Sunday, midway in the month, the Captain, sitting in the family pew at Bulstrode church directly facing the monument of Admiral Hartley Bulstrode, who fought and died in the days of Queen Elizabeth, registered a silent oath that as he was a gentleman and a Christian he would henceforth abstain from holding any voluntary communication with Aurora Floyd. But for this vow he must have broken down, and yielded to his yearning fear and love, and gone to Felden Woods to throw himself, blind and unquestioning, at the feet of the sick woman.


The tender green of the earliest leaflets was breaking out in bright patches upon the hedgerows round Felden Woods; the ash-buds were no longer black upon the front of March, and pale violets and primroses made exquisite tracery in the shady nooks beneath the oaks and beeches. All nature was rejoicing in the mild April weather, when Aurora Floyd lifted her dark eyes to her father's face with something of their old look and familiar light. The battle had been a long and severe one; but it was well-nigh over now, the physicians said ; defeated Death drew back for a while, to wait a better opportunity for making his fatal spring; and the feeble victor was to be carried down-stairs to sit in the drawing-room for the first time since the night of December the 25th.

John Mellish, happening to be at Felden that day, was allowed the supreme privilege of carrying the fragile burden in his strong arms from the door of the sick-chamber to the great sofa by the fire in the drawingroom, attended by a procession of happy people bearing shawls and pillows, vinaigrettes and scent-bottles, and other invalid paraphernalia. Every creature at Felden was devoted to this adored convalescent. Archibald Floyd lived only to minister to her; gentle Lucy waited on her night and day, fearful to trust the service to menial hands; Mrs. Powell, like some pale and quiet shadow, lurked amidst the bed-curtains, soft of foot and watchful of eye, invaluable in the sick-chamber, as the doctors said. Throughout her illness, Aurora had never mentioned the name of Talbot Bulstrode. Not even when the fever was at its worst, and the brain most distraught, had that familiar name escaped her lips. Other names,

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strange to Lucy, had been repeated by her again and again : the names of places and horses, and slangy technicalities of the turf, had interlarded the poor girl's brain-sick babble; but whatever were her feelings with regard to Talbot, no word had revealed their depth or sadness. Yet I do not think that my poor dark-eyed heroine was utterly feelingless upon this point. When they first spoke of carrying her down-stairs, Mrs. Powell and Lucy proposed the little bay-windowed chamber, which was small and snug, and had a southern aspect, as the fittest place for the invalid; but Aurora cried out, shuddering, that she would never enter that hateful chamber again.

As soon as ever she was strong enough to bear the fatigue of the journey, it was considered advisable to remove her from Felden; and Leamington was suggested by the doctors as the best place for the change. A mild climate and a pretty inland retreat, a hushed and quiet town, peculiarly adapted to invalids, being almost deserted by other visitors after the hunting season.

Shakespeare's birthday had come and gone, and the high festivals at Stratford were over, when Archibald Floyd took his pale daughter to Leamington. A furnished cottage had been engaged for them a mile and a half out of the town; a pretty place, balf-villa, half-farmhouse, with walls of white plaster chequered with beams of black wood, and well-nigh buried in a luxuriant and trimly-kept flower-garden; a pleasant place, forming one of a little cluster of rustic buildings crowded about a gray old church in a nook of the roadway, where two or three green lanes met, and went branching off between overhanging hedges; a most retired spot, yet clamorous with that noise which is of all others cheerful and joyous,—the hubbub of farmyards, the cackle of poultry, the cooing of pigeons, the monotonous lowing of lazy cattle, and the squabbling grunt of quarrelsome pigs. Archibald could not have brought his daughter to a better place. The chequered farmhouse seemed a haven of rest to this poor weary girl of nineteen. It was so pleasant to lie wrapped in shawls, on a chintz-covered sofa, in the open window, listening to the rustic noises in the straw-littered yard upon the other side of the hedge, with her faithful Bow-wow's big forepaws resting on the cushions at her feet.

The sounds in the farmyard were pleasanter to Aurora than the monotonous inflections of Mrs. Powell's voice; but as that lady considered it a part of her duty to read aloud for the invalid's delectation, Miss Floyd was too good-natured to own how tired she was of Marmion and Childe Harold, Evangeline and The Queen of the May, and how she would have preferred in her present state of mind to listen to a lively dispute between a brood of ducks round the pond in the farmyard, or a trifling discussion in the pigsty, to the sublimest lines ever penned by poet, living or dead. The poor girl had suffered very much, and there was a certain sensuous, lazy pleasure in this slow recovery, this gradual return to strength. Her own nature revived in unison with the bright revival of the genial summer weather. As the trees in the garden put

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