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I will tell no man that which I do not choose to tell,” he said firmly; and then, with a sudden change that was terrible to see, he cried impetuously, “Why do you torment me, Talbot? I tell you that I can't trust you—I can't trust any one upon earth. If—if I told you—the horrible thought that—if I told you, it would be your duty to--ITalbot, Talbot, have pity upon me,let me alone-go away from me14

Stamping furiously, as if he would lave trampled down the cowardly despair for which he despised himself, and beating his forehead with his clenched fists, John Mellish turned away from his friend, and, leaning against the gnarled branch of a great oak, wept aloud. Talbot Bulstrode waited till the paroxysm had passed away before he spoke again; but when his friend had grown calmer, he linked his arm about him, and drew him away almost as tenderly as if the big Yorkshireman had been some sorrowing woman, sorely in need of manly help and comfort.

“John, John,” he said gravely, “thank God for this; thank God for any thing that breaks the ice between us. I know what your trouble is, poor old friend, and I know that you have no cause for it. head, man, and look straightforward to a happy future. I know the black thought that has been gnawing at your poor foolish manly heart; you think that Aurora murdered the groom !"

John Mellish started, shuddering convulsively.
“No, no," he gasped; “who said so—who said?"

“You think this, John,” continued Talbot Bulstrode ; " and you do her the most grievous wrong that ever yet was done to woman; a more shameful wrong than I committed when I thought that Aurora Floyd had been guilty of some base intrigue.”

“ You don't know_” stammered John.

“I don't know! I know all, and foresaw trouble for saw the cloud that was in the sky. But I never dreamt of this. I thought the foolish country-people would suspect your wife, as it always pleases people to try and fix a crime upon the person in whom that crime would be more particularly atrocious. I was prepared for this; but to think that you-you, John, who should have learned to know your wife by this time—to think that you should suspect the woman you have loved of a foul and treacherous murder !"

“ How do we know that the-that the man was murdered ?cried John vehemently. “Who says that the deed was treacherously done? He may have goaded her beyond endurance, insulted her generous pride, stung her to the very quick, and in the madness of her passion -having that wretched pistol in her possession-she may—”

“ Stop !" interrupted Talbot. “What pistol? You told me the weapon had not been found.”

“It was found upon the night of our return.”

“Yes; but why do you associate this weapon with Aurora ? What do you mean by saying that the pistol was in her possession ?”


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“Because-0 my God! Talbot, why do you wring these things from me ?

For your own good, and for the justification of an innocent woman; so help me, Heaven !" answered Mr. Buletrode. “Do not be afraid to be candid with me, John. Nothing would ever make me believe Aurora Mellish guilty of this crime."

The Yorkshireman turned suddenly towards his friend, and leaning upon Talbot Bulstrode's shoulder, wept for the second time during that woodland ramble.

“ May God in heaven bless you for this, Talbot !” he cried passionately. “Ah, my love, my dear, what a wretch I have been to you! but Heaven is my witness that, even in my worst agony of doubt and horror, my love has never lessened. It never could ; it never could !"

“John, old fellow,” said Mr. Bulstrode cheerfully,“ perhaps, instead of talking this nonsense (which leaves me entirely in the dark as to every thing that has happened since you left London), you will do me the favour to enlighten me as to the cause of these foolish suspicions."

They had reached the ruined summer-house and the pool of stagnant water, on the margin of which James Conyers had met with his death. Mr. Bulstrode seated himself upon a pile of broken timber, while John Mellish paced up and down the smooth patch of turf between the summer-house and the water, and told, disjointedly enough, the story of the finding of the pistol, which had been taken out of his room.

“I saw that pistol upon the day of the murder," he said. “I took particular notice of it; for I was cleaning my guns that morning, and I left them all in confusion while I went down to the lodge to see the trainer. When I came back-1-"

“Well, what then?"
“Aurora had been setting my guns in order."
“You argue, therefore, that your wife took the pistol ?”

? John looked piteously at his friend; but Talbot's grave smile reassured him.

“No one else had permission to go into the room,” he answered. “I keep my papers and accounts there, you know; and it's an understood thing that none of the servants are allowed to go there, except when they clean the room.”

“ To be sure! But the room is not locked, I suppose ?” « Locked ! of course not!"

“And the windows—which open to the ground—are sometimes left open, I dare say ?”

“Almost always in such weather as this."

“Then, my dear John, it may be just possible that some one who had not permission to enter the room did, nevertheless, enter it, for the purpose of abstracting this pistol. Have you asked Aurora why she took upon herself to rearrange your guns?--she had never done such a thing before, I suppose ?"

“Oh, yes, very often. I'm rather in the habit of leaving them about after cleaning them; and my darling understands all about them as well as I do. She has often put them away for me.”

“ Then there was nothing particular in her doing so upon the day of the murder. Have you asked ber how long she was in your room, and whether she can remember seeing this particular pistol, among others ?"

Ask her!" exclaimed John;“ how could I ask her when—"

“ When you had been mad enough to suspect her. No, my poor old friend; you made the same mistake that I committed at Felden. You presupposed the guilt of the woman you loved; and you were too great a coward to investigate the evidence upon which your suspicions were built. Had I been wise enough, instead of blindly questioning this poor bewildered girl, to tell her plainly what it was that I suspected, the incon. trovertible truth would have flashed out of her angry eyes, and one indignant denial would have told me how basely I had wronged her. You shall not make the mistake that I made, John. You must go frankly and fearlessly to the wife you love, tell her of the suspicion that overclouds her fame, and implore her to help you to the uttermost of her power in unravelling the mystery of this man's death. The assassin must be found, John; for so long as he remains undiscovered, you and your wife will be the victims of every penny-a-liner who finds himself at a loss for a paragraph.”

“Yes,” Mr. Mellish answered bitterly, “ the papers have been hard at it already; and there's been a fellow hanging about the place for the last few days whom I've had a very strong inclination to thrash. Some reporter, I suppose, come to pick up information.”

“ I suppose so," Talbot answered thoughtfully; "what sort of a man was he?

“A decent-looking fellow enough; but a Londoner, I fancy, andstay!” exclaimed John suddenly, “there's a man coming towards us from the turnstile, and unless I'm considerably mistaken, it's the very fellow.”

Mr. Mellish was right.

The wood was free to any foot-passenger who pleased to avail himself of the pleasant shelter of spreading beeches, and the smooth carpet of mossy turf, rather than tramp wearily upon the dusty highway.

The stranger advancing from the turnstile was a decent-looking person, dressed in dark tight-fitting clothes, and making no unnecessary or ostentatious display of linen, for his coat was buttoned tightly to the chin. He looked at Talbot and John as he passed them,—not insolently, or even inquisitively, but with one brightly rapid and searching glance, which seemed to take in the most minute details in the appearance of both gentlemen. Then, walking on a few paces, he stopped and looked thoughtfully at the pond, and the bank above it.

“This is the place, I think, gentlemen ?” he said, in a frank and rather free-and-easy manner.

Talbot returned his look with interest.

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“ If you mean the place where the murder was committed, it is," he said.

“Ah, I understood so," answered the stranger, by no means abashed.

He looked at the bank, regarding it, now from one point, now from another, like some skilful upholsterer taking the measure of a piece of furniture. Then walking slowly round the pond, he seemed to plumb the depth of the stagnant water with his small gray eyes.

Talbot Bulstrode watched the man as he took this mental photograph of the place. There was a business-like composure in his manner, which was entirely different to the eager curiosity of a scandalmonger and a busy body.

Mr. Bulstrode rose as the man walked away, and went slowly after him.

“Stop where you are, John,” he said, as he left his companion; “ I'll find out who this fellow is.

He walked on, and overtook the stranger at about a hundred yards from the pond.

“I want to have a few words with you before you leave the park, my friend,” he said quietly; "unless I'm very much mistaken, you are a member of the detective police, and come here with credentials from Scotland Yard."

The man shook his head, with a quiet smile.

“ I'm not obliged to tell every body my business," he answered coolly; “ this footpath is a public thoroughfare, I believe ?"

“Listen to me, my good fellow," said Mr. Bulstrode. “It may serve your purpose to beat about the bush ; but I have no reason to do therefore may as well come to the point at once. If you are sent here for the purpose of discovering the murderer of James Conyers, you can be more welcome to no one than to the master of that house."

He pointed to the Gothic chimneys as he spoke.

“If those who employ you have promised you a liberal reward, Mr. Mellish will willingly treble the amount they may have offered you. He would not give you cause to complain of his liberality, should you succeed in accomplishing the purpose of your errand. If you think you will gain any thing by underhand measures, and by keeping yourself dark, you are very much mistaken; for no one can be better able or more willing to give you assistance in this tban Mr. and Mrs. Mellish."

The detective--for be had tacitly admitted the fact of his professionlooked doubtfully at Talbot Bulstrode.

“You're a lawyer, I suppose ?” he said.

“I am Mr. Talbot Bulstrode, member for Penruthy, and the husband of Mrs. Mellish's first cousin."

The detective bowed.

"My name is Joseph Grimstone, of Scotland Yard and Ball's Pond," he said; "and I certainly see no objection to our working together. If Mr. Mellish is prepared to act on the square, I'm prepared to act with

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him, and to accept any reward his generosity may offer. But if he or any friend of his wants to hoodwink Joseph Grimstone, he'd better think twice about the game before he tries it on; that's all.”

Mr. Bulstrode took no notice of this threat, but looked at his watch before replying to the detective.

"It's a quarter past six,” he said. “Mr. Mellish dines at seven. Can you call at the house, say at nine, this evening? You shall then have all the assistance it is in our power to give you."

“Certainly, sir. At nine this evening."
“We shall be prepared to receive you. Good afternoon.”

Mr. Grimstone touched his hat, and strolled quietly away under the shadow of the beeches, while Talbot Bulstrode walked back to rejoin his friend.

It may be as well to take this opportunity of stating the reason of the detective's early appearance at Mellish Park. Upon the day of the inquest, and consequently the next day but one after the murder, two anonymous letters, worded in the same manner, and written by the same hand, were received respectively by the head of the Doncaster constabulary and by the chief of the Scotland-Yard detective confederacy.

These anonymous communications-written in a hand which, in spite of all attempt at disguise, still retained the spidery peculiarities of feminine caligraphy-pointed, by a sinuous and inductive process of reasoning, at Aurora Mellish as the murderess of James Conyers. I need scarcely say that the writer was no other than Mrs. Powell. She has disappeared for ever from my story, and I have no wish to blacken a character which can ill afford to be slandered. The ensign's widow actually believed in the guilt of her beautiful patroness. It is so easy for an envious woman to believe horrible things of the more prosperous sister whom she hates.



“We are on the verge of a precipice,” Talbot Bulstrode thought, as he prepared for dinner in the comfortable dressing-room allotted to him at Mellish,—“we are on the verge of a precipice, and nothing but a bold grapple with the worst can save us. Any reticence, any attempt at keeping back suspicious facts, or hushing up awkward coincidences, would be fatal to us. If John had made away with this pistol with which the deed was done, he would have inevitably fixed a most fearful suspicion upon his wife. Thank God I came here to-day! We must look matters straight in the face, and our first step must be to secure Aurora's help. So long as she is silent as to her share in the events of that day and night, there is a link missing in the chain, and we are all at sea. John must speak to her to-night; or perhaps it will be better for me to speak.”

Mr. Bulstrode went down to the drawing-room, where he found his friend pacing up and down, solitary and wretched.

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