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Could she have heard — ? Could any body have given her reason to suppose-?

“You are not well, Mrs. Mellish,” he said, as he took her hand. “No, not very well. This oppressive weather makes my head ache."

“I am sorry to see you looking ill. Where shall I find John ?” asked Mr. Bulstrode.

Aurora's pale face flushed suddenly.

“I-I-don't know,” she stammered. “He is not in the house; he has gone out—to the stables—or to the farm, I think. I'll send for him."

“No, no," Talbot said, intercepting her hand on its way to the bell. “I'll go and look for him. Lucy will be glad of a chat with you, I dare say, Aurora, and will not be sorry to get rid of me.”

Lucy, with her arm about her cousin's waist, assented to this arrangement. She was grieved to see the change in Aurora's looks, the unnatural constraint of her manner.

Mr. Bulstrode walked away, hugging himself upon having done a very wise thing

“ Lucy is a great deal more likely to find out what is the matter than I am," he thought. “There is a sort of freemasonry between women,

” an electric affinity, which a man's presence always destroys. How deathly pale Aurora looks! Can it be possible that the trouble I expected has come so soon ?

He went to the stables, but not so much to look for John Mellish as in the hope of finding somebody intelligent enough to furnish him with a better account of the murder than

any he had yet heard. “Some one else, as well as Aurora, must have had a reason for wishing to get rid of this man,” he thought. “There must have been some motive,-revenge, gain,--something which no one has yet fathomed.”

He went into the stable-yard; but he had no opportunity of making his investigation, for John Mellish was standing in a listless attitude before a small forge, watching the shoeing of one of his horses. The young squire looked up with a start as he recognised Talbot, and gave him his hand, with a few straggling words of welcome. Even in that moment Mr.Bulstrode saw that there was perhaps a greater change in John's appearance than in that of Aurora. The Yorkshireman's blue eyes had lost their brightness, his step its elasticity; his face seemed sunken and haggard, and he evidently avoided meeting Talbot's eye. He lounged listlessly away from the forge, walking at his guest's side in the direction of the stable-gates; but he had the air of a man who neither knows nor cares whither he is going.

“Shall we go to the house ?” he said. “You must want some luncheon after your journey." He looked at his watch as he said this. It was half-past three, an hour after the usual time for luncheon at Mellish. “I've been in the stables all the morning," he said.

“We're busy making our preparations for the York Summer.”

“What horses do you run ?” Mr. Buletrode asked, politely affecting

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to be interested in a subject that was utterly indifferent to him, in the hope that stable-talk might rouse John from his listless apathy.

“What horses?" repeated Mr. Mellish vaguely. “I-I hardly know. Langley manages all that for me, you know; and—I-I forget the names of the horses he proposed, and—

Talbot Bulstrode turned suddenly upon his friend, and looked him full in the face. They had left the stables by this time, and were in a shady pathway that led through a shrubbery towards the house.

“John Mellish,” he said, “this is not fair towards an old friend. You have something on your mind, and you are trying to hide it from me."

The squire turned away his head.

“I have something on my mind, Talbot,” he said quietly. “If you could help me, I'd ask your help more than any man's. But you can't,

. you can't !"

“But suppose I think I can help you ?" cried Mr. Bulstrode. “Suppose I mean to try and do so, whether you will or no? I think I can guess what your trouble is, John; but I thought you were a braver man than to give way under it; I thought you were just the sort of man to struggle through it nobly and bravely, and to get the better of it by your own strength of will."

“What do you mean?” exclaimed John Mellish. “You can guessyou know-you thought! Have you no mercy upon me, Talbot Bulstrode? Can't you see that I'm almost mad, and that this is no time for you to force your sympathy upon me? Do you want me to betray myself? Do you want me to betray—"

He stopped suddenly, as if the words had choked him, and, passionately stamping his foot upon the ground, walked on hurriedly, with his friend still by his side.

The dining-room looked dreary enough when the two men entered it, although the table gave promise of a very substantial luncheon; but there was no one to welcome them, or to officiate at the banquet.

John seated himself wearily in a chair at the bottom of the table. “ You had better go and see if Mrs. Bulstrode and your

mistress are coming to luncheon,” he said to a servant, who left the room with his master's message, and returned three minutes afterwards to say that the ladies were not coming.

The ladies were seated side by side upon a low sofa in Aurora's morning-room. Mrs. Mellish sat with her head upon her cousin's shoulder. She had never had a sister, remember, and gentle Lucy stood in place of that near and tender comforter. Talbot was perfectly right; Lucy had accomplished that which he would have failed to bring about. She had found the key to her cousin's unhappiness.

“ Ceased to love you, dear!” exclaimed Mrs. Bulstrode, echoing the words that Aurora had last spoken. “Impossible !"

"It is true, Lucy,” Mrs. Mellish answered despairingly. “He has ceased to love me. There is a black cloud between us now, now that all secrets are done away with. It is very bitter for me to bear, Lucy; for I thought we should be so happy and united. But-but it is only natural. He feels the degradation so much. How can he look at me without remembering who and what I am? The widow of his groom! Can I wonder that he avoids me ?"

"Avoids you, dear!"

« Yes, avoids me. We have scarcely spoken a dozen words to each other since the night of our returr. He was so good to me, so tender and devoted during the journey home, telling me again and again that this discovery had not lessened his love, that all the trial and horror of the past few days had only shown him the great strength of his affection; but on the night of our return, Lucy, he changed-changed suddenly and inexplicably; and now I feel that there is a gulf between us that can never be passed again. He is alienated from me for ever."

“Aurora, all this is impossible,” remonstrated Lucy. “It is your own morbid fancy, darling.”

“My fancy !" cried Aurora bitterly. “Ah, Lucy, you cannot know how much I love my husband, if you think that I could be deceived in one look or tone of his. Is it my fancy that he averts his eyes when he speaks to me? Is it my fancy that his voice changes when be pronounces my name? Is it my fancy that he roams about the house like a ghost, and paces up and down his room half the night through? If these things are my fancy, Heaven have mercy upon me, Lucy; for I must be going mad."

Mrs. Bulstrode started as she looked at her cousin. Could it be possible that all the trouble and confusion of the past week or two had indeed unsettled this poor girl's intellect?

“My poor Aurora !" she murmured, smoothing the heavy hair away from her cousin's tearful eyes ; “my poor darling, how is it possible that John should change towards you? He loved you so dearly, so devotedly; surely nothing could alienate him from you."

“I used to think so, Lucy,” Aurora murmured in a low, heart-broken voice; “I used to think nothing could ever come to part us. He said he would follow me to the uttermost end of the world; he said that no obstacle on earth should ever separate us; and now—"

She could not finish the sentence, for she broke into convulsive sobs, and hid her face upon her cousin's shoulder, staining Mrs. Bulstrode's pretty silk dress with her hot tears.

“Oh, my love, my love!" she cried piteously, “why didn't I run away and hide myself from you? why didn't I trust to my first instinct, and run away from you for ever? Any suffering would be better than this; any suffering would be better than this !"

Her passionate grief merged into a fit of hysterical weeping, in which she was no longer mistress of herself. She had suffered for the past few days more bitterly than she had ever suffered yet. Lucy understood all

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that. She was one of those people whose tenderness instinctively comprehends the griefs of others. She knew how to treat her cousin; and in less than an hour after this emotional outbreak Aurora was lying on her bed, pale and exhausted, but sleeping peacefully. She had carried the burden of her sorrow in silence during the past few days, and had spent sleepless nights in brooding over her trouble. Her conversation with Lucy had unconsciously relieved her, and she slumbered calmly after the storm. Lucy sat by the bed watching the sleeper for some time, and then stole on tiptoe from the room.

She went, of course, to tell her husband all that had passed, and to take counsel from his sublime wisdom.

She found Talbot in the drawing-room alone; he had eaten a dreary luncheon in John's company, and had been hastily left by his host immediately after the meal. There had been no sound of carriage. wheels upon the gravelled drive all that morning; there had been no callers at Mellish since John's return; for a horrible scandal had spread itself throughout the length and breadth of the county, and those who spoke of the young squire and his wife talked in solemn under-tones, and gravely demanded of each other whether some serious step should not be taken about the business which was uppermost in every body's mind.

Lucy told Talbot all that Aurora had said to her. This was no breach of confidence in the young wife's code of morality; for were not she and her husband immutably one, and how could she have any secret from him ?

“I thought so!" Mr. Bulstrode said, when Lucy had finished her story

“You thought what, dear?

“That the breach between John and Aurora was a serious one. Don't look so sorrowful, my darling. It must be our business to reunite these divided lovers. You shall comfort Aurora, Lucy; and I'll look after John."

Talbot Bulstrode kissed his little wife, and went straight away upon his friendly errand. He found John Mellish in his own room,—the room in which Aurora had written to him upon the day of her flight; the room from which the murderous weapon had been stolen by some unknown hand. John had hidden the rusty pistol in one of the locked drawers of his Davenport; but it was not to be supposed that the fact of its discovery could be locked up or hidden away. That had been fully discussed in the servants' hall; and who shall doubt that it had travelled further, percolating through some of those sinuous channels which lead away from every household ?

“I want you to come for a walk with me, Mr. John Mellish,” said Talbot imperatively; "80 put on your hat, and come into the park. You are the most agreeable gentleman I ever had the honour to visit, and the attention you pay your guests is really something remarkable."

Mr. Mellish made no reply to this speech. He stood before his
VOL. VII.

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friend, pale, silent, and sullen. He was no more like the hearty Yorkshire squire whom we have known, than he was like Viscount Palmerston or Lord Clyde. He was transformed out of himself by some great trouble that was preying upon his mind; and being of a transparent and childishly truthful disposition, was unable to disguise his anguish.

“John, John," cried Talbot, "we were little boys together at Rugby, and have backed each other in a dozen childish fights. Is it kind of you to withhold your friendship from me now, when I have come here on purpose to be a friend to you—to you and to Aurora ?

John Mellish turned away his head as his friend mentioned that familiar name; and the gesture was not lost upon Mr. Bulstrode.

“John, why do you refuse to trust me?"

“I don't refuse. I-why did you come to this accursed house ?” cried John Mellish passionately; "why did you come here, Talbot Bulstrode? You don't know the blight that is upon this place, and those who live in it, or you would have no more come here than you would willingly go to a plague-stricken city. Do you know that since I came back from London not a creature has called at this house? Do you know that when I and—and—my wife-went to church on Sunday, the people we knew sneaked away from our path as if we had just recovered from typhus fever? Do you know that the cursed gaping rabble come from Doncaster to stare over the park-palings, and that this house is a show to half the West Riding? Why do you come here? You will be stared at, and grinned at, and scandalised, -you, who-! Go back to London tonight, Talbot, if you don't want to drive me mad.”

“Not till you trust me with your troubles, John," answered Mr. Bulstrode firmly. “Put on your hat, and come out with me. to show me the spot where the murder was done."

“ You may get some one else to show it you,” muttered John sullenly; “I'll not go there !"

“ John Mellish,” cried Talbot suddenly, am I to think you a coward and a fool? By the heaven that's above me, I shall think so if you persist in this nonsense. Come out into the park with me; I have the claim of past friendship upon you, and I'll not have that claim set aside by any folly of yours.

The two men went out upon the lawn, John complying moodily enough with his friend's request, and walked silently across the park towards that portion of the wood in which James Conyers had met his death. They had reached one of the loneliest and shadiest avenues in this wood, and were, in fact, close against the spot from which Samuel Prodder had watched his niece and her companion on the night of the murder, when Talbot stopped suddenly, and laid his hand on the squire's shoulder.

“John," he said, in a determined tone, “ before we go to look at the place where this bad man died, you must tell me your trouble.”

Mr. Mellish drew himself up proudly, and looked at the speaker with gloomy defiance lowering upon his face.

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