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forth new strength and beauty, so the glorious vitality of her constitution returned with much of its wonted power. The bitter blows had left their scars behind them, but they had not killed her, after all. They had not utterly changed her even, for glimpses of the old Aurora appeared day by day in the pale convalescent; and Archibald Floyd, whose life was at best but a reflected existence, felt his hopes revive as he looked at his daughter. Lucy and her mother had gone back to the villa at Fulham, and to their own family duties; so the Leamington party consisted only of Aurora and her father, and that pale shadow of propriety, the ensign's light-haired widow. But they were not long without a visitor. John Mellish, artfully taking the banker at a disadvantage in some moment of Aurry and confusion at Felden Woods, had extorted from him an invitation to Leamington; and a fortnight after their arrival he presented his stalwart form and fair face at the low wooden gates of the chequered cottage. Aurora laughed (for the first time since her illness) as she saw that faithful adorer come, carpet-bag in hand, through the labyrinth of grass and flower-beds towards the open window at which she and her father sat; and Archibald, seeing that first gleam of gaiety in the beloved face, could have hugged John Mellish for being the cause of it. He would have embraced a street-tumbler, or the low comedian of a booth at a fair, or a troop of performing dogs and monkeys, or any thing upon earth that could win a smile from his sick child. Like the Eastern potentate in the fairy tale, who always offers half his kingdom and his daughter's hand to any one who can cure the princess of her bilious headache, or extract her carious tooth, Archibald would have opened a banking-account in Lombard Street, with a fabulous sum to start with, for any one who could give pleasure to this black-eyed girl, now smiling, for the first time in that year, at sight of the big fair-faced Yorkshireman coming to pay his foolish worship at her shrine.
It was not to be supposed that Mr. Floyd had felt no wonder as to the cause of the rupture of his daughter's engagement to Talbot Bulstrode. The anguish and terror endured by him during her long illness had left no room for any other thought; but since the passing away of the danger, he had pondered not a little upon the abrupt rupture between the lovers. He ventured once, in the first week of their stay at Leamington, to speak to her upon the subject, asking why it was she had dismissed the Captain. Now if there was one thing more hateful than another to Aurora Floyd, it was a lie. I do not say that she had never told one in the course of her life. There are some acts of folly which carry falsehood and dissimulation at their heels as certainly as the shadows which follow us when we walk towards the evening sun; and we very rarely swerve from the severe boundary-line of right without being dragged ever so much farther than we calculated upon across the border. Alas, my heroine is not faultless. She would take her shoes off to give them to the barefooted poor; sbe would take the heart from her breast, if she could by so doing heal the wounds she has inflicted upon the loving heart of her father.
shadow of mad folly has blotted her motherless youta, and she has a terrible harvest to reap from that lightly-sown seed, and a cruel expiation to make for that unforgotten wrong. Yet her natural disposition is all truth and candour; and there are many young ladies, whose lives have been as primly ruled and ordered as the fair pleasure-gardens of a Tyburnian Square, who could tell a falsehood with a great deal better grace than Aurora Floyd. So when her father asked her why she had dismissed Talbot Bulstrode, she made no answer to that question ; but simply told him that the quarrel had been a very painful one, and that she hoped never to hear the Captain's name again; although at the same time she assured Mr. Floyd that her lover's conduct had been in nowise unbecoming a gentleman and a man of honour. Archibald implicitly obeyed his daughter in this matter, and the name of Talbot Bulstrode never being spoken, it seemed as if the young man had dropped out of their lives, or as if he had never had any part in the destiny of Aurora Floyd. Heaven knows what Aurora herself felt and suffered in the quiet of her low-roofed, white-curtained little chamber, with the soft May moonlight stealing in at the casement-windows, and creeping in wan radiance about the walls. Heaven only knows the bitterness of the silent battle. Her vitality made her strong to suffer ; her vivid imagination intensified every throb of pain. In a dull and torpid soul grief is a slow anguishı; but with her it was a fierce and tempestuous emotion, in which past and future seemed rolled together with the present to make a concentrated agony. But, by an all-wise dispensation, the stormy sorrow wears itself out by reason of its very violence, while the dull woe drags its slow length sometimes through weary years, becoming at last engrafted in the very nature of the patient sufferer, as some diseases become part of our constitutions. Aurora was fortunate in being permitted to fight her battle in silence, and to suffer unquestioned. If the dark hollow rings about her eyes told of sleepless nights, Archibald Floyd forbore to torment her with anxious speeches and trite consolations. The clairvoyance of love told him that it was better to let her alone. So the trouble hanging over the little circle was neither seen nor spoken of. Aurora kept her skeleton in some quiet corner, and no one saw the grim skull, or heard the rattle of the dry bones. Archibald Floyd read his newspapers, and wrote his letters; Mrs. Walter Powell tended the convalescent, who reclined during the best part of the day on the sofa in the open window; and John Mellish loitered about the garden and the farmyard, leaned on the low white gate, smoking bis cigar, and talking to the men about the place, and was in and out of the house twenty times in an hour. The banker pondered sometimes in serio-comic perplexity as to what was to be done with this big Yorkshireman, who hung upon him like a goodnatured monster of six feet two, conjured into existence by the hospitality of a modern Frankenstein. He had invited him to dinner, and, lo, he appeared to be saddled with him for life. He could not tell the friendly, generous, loud-spoken creature to go away. Besides, Mr. Mellish was on the whole very useful, and he did much towards keeping Aurora in apparently good spirits. Yet, on the other hand, was it right to tamper with this great loving heart? Was it just to let the young man linger in the light of those black eyes, and then send him away when the invalid was equal to the effort of giving him his congé? Archibald Floyd did not know that Jolin had been rejected by his daughter on a certain autumn morning at Brighton. So he made up his mind to speak frankly, and sound the depths of his visitor's feelings.
Mrs. Powell was making tea at a little table near one of the windows; Aurora had fallen asleep with an open book in her hand; and the banker walked with John Mellish up and down an espaliered alley in the golden sunset.
Archibald freely communicated his perplexities to the Yorkshireman. “I need not tell you, my dear Mellist,” he said, “how pleasant it is to me to have you here. I never had a son; but if it had pleased God to give me one, I could have wished him to be just such a frank, noblehearted fellow as yourself. I'm an old man, and have seen a great deal of trouble—the sort of trouble which strikes deeper home to the heart than any sorrows that begin in Lombard Street or on 'Change ; but I feel younger in your society, and I find myself clinging to you and leaning on you as a father might upon his son. You may believe, then, that I don't wish to get rid of you.”
“I do, Mr. Floyd; but do you think that any one else wishes to get rid of me? Do you think I'm a nuisance to Miss Floyd ?”
“No, Mellish,” answered the banker energetically. “I am sure that Aurora takes pleasure in your society, and seems to treat you almost as if you were her brother; but-but-I know your feelings, my dear boy, and what I fear is, that you may perhaps never inspire a warmer feeling in her heart."
“Let me stay and take my chance, Mr. Floyd,” cried John, throwing his cigar across the espaliers, and coming to a dead stop upon the gravelwalk in the warmth of his enthusiasm. “Let me stay and take my chance. If there's any disappointment to be borne, I'll bear it like a man; I'll go back to the Park, and you shall never be bothered with me again. Miss Floyd has rejected me once already; but perhaps I was in too great a hurry. I've grown wiser since then, and I've learnt to bide my time. I've one of the finest estates in Yorkshire; I'm not worse looking than the generality of fellows, or worse educated than the generality of fellows. I mayn't have straight hair, and a pale face, and look as if I'd walked out of a three-volume novel, like Talbot Bulstrode. I may be a stone or two over the correct weight for winning a young lady's heart; but I'm sound, wind and limb. I never told a lie, or committed a mean action; and I love your daughter with as true and pure a love as ever man felt for woman. May I try my luck once more ?"
“You may, John.”
" And have 1,-thank you, sir, for calling me John,-have I your good wishes for my success ?”
The banker shook Mr. Mellish by the hand as he answered this question.
“You have, my dear Jolin, my best and heartiest wishes."
So there were three battles of the heart being fought in that springtide of fifty-eight. Aurora and Talbot, separated from each other by the length and breadth of half England, yet united by an impalpable chain, were struggling day by day to break its links; while poor John Mellish quietly waited in the background, fighting the sturdy fight of the strong heart, which very rarely fails to win the prize it is set upon, however high or far away that prize may seem to be.
AT THE CHATEAU D'ARQUES. John Mellish made himself entirely at home in the little Leamington circle after this interview with Mr. Floyd. No one could have been more tender in his manner, more respectful, untiring, and devoted, than was this rough Yorkshireman to the broken old man. Archibald must have been less than human had he not in somewise returned this devotion, and it is therefore scarcely to be wondered that he became very warmly attached to his daughter's adorer. Had John Mellish been the most designing disciple of Machiavelli, instead of the most transparent and candid of living creatures, I scarcely think he could have adopted a truer means of making for himself a claim upon the gratitude of Aurora Floyd than by the affection he evinced for her father. And this affection was as genuine as all else in that simple nature. How could be do otherwise than love Aurora's father? He was her father. He had a sublime claim upon the devotion of the man who loved her; who loved her as John loved,-unreservedly, undoubtingly, childishly; with such blind, unquestioning love as an infant feels for its mother. There may be better women than that mother, perhaps; but who shall make the child believe so ?
John Mellish could not argue with himself upon his passion, as Talbot Bulstrode kad done. He could not separate bimself from his love, and reason with the wild madness. How could be divide himself from that which was himself; more than himself; a diviner self? He asked no questions about the past life of the woman he loved. He never sought to know the secret of Talbot's departure from Felden. He saw her, beautiful, fascinating, perfect, and he accepted her as a great and wonderful fact, like the moon and the stars shining down on the rustic flower-beds and espaliered garden-walks in the balmy June nights.
So the tranquil days glided slowly and monotonously past that quiet circle. Aurora bore her silent burden; bore her trouble with a grand courage, peculiar to such rich organisations as her own, and none knew whether the serpent had been rooted from her breast, or had made for himself a permanent home in her heart. The banker's most watchful care could not fathom the womanly mystery; but there were times when Archibald Floyd ventured to hope that his daughter was at peace, and
Talbot Bulstrode well-nigh forgotten. In any case, it was wise to keep her away from Felden Woods; so Mr. Floyd proposed a tour through Normandy to his daughter and Mrs. Powell. Aurora consented, with a tender smile and gentle pressure of her father's hand. She divined the old man's motive, and recognised the all-watchful love which sought to carry her from the scene of her trouble. John Mellish, who was not invited to join the party, burst forth into such raptures at the proposal, that it would have required considerable hardness of heart to have refused his escort. He knew every inch of Normandy, he said, and promised to be of infinite use to Mr. Floyd and his daughter; which, seeing that his knowledge of Normandy had been acquired in his attendance at the Dieppe steeple-chases, and that his acquaintance with the French language was very limited, seemed rather doubtful. But for all this he contrived to keep his word. He went up to Town and hired an all-accomplished courier, who conducted the little party from town to village, from church to ruin, and who could always find relays of Normandy horses for the banker's roomy travelling-carriage. The little party travelled from place to place until pale gleams of colour returned in transient flushes to Aurora's cheeks. Grief is terribly selfish. I fear that Miss Floyd never took into consideration the havoc that might be going on in the great honest heart of John Mellish. I dare
that if she had ever considered the matter, she would have thought that a broad-shouldered Yorkshireman of six feet two could never suffer seriously from such a passion as love. She grew accustomed to his society; accustomed to have his strong arm handy for her to lean upon when she grew tired; accustomed to his carrying her sketch-book and shawls and camp-stools; accustomed to be waited upon by him all day, and served faithfully by him at every turn; taking his homage as a thing of course, but making him superlatively and dangerously happy by her tacit acceptance of it.
September was half gone when they bent their way homeward, lingering for a few days at Dieppe, where the bathers were splashing about in semi-theatrical costume, and the Etablissement des Bains was all aflame with coloured lanterns and noisy with nightly concerts.
The early autumnal days were glorious in their balmy beauty. The best part of a year had gone by since Talbot Bulstrode bad bade Aurora that adieu which, in one sense at least, was to be eternal. They two, Aurora and Talbot, might meet again, it is true. They might meet, ay, and even be cordial and friendly together, and do each other good service in some dim time to come; but the two lovers who had parted in the little bay-windowed room at Felden Woods could never meet again. Between them there was death and the
grave. Perhaps some such thoughts as these had their place in the breast of Aurora Floyd as she sat with John Mellish at her side, looking down upon the varied landscape from the height upon which the ruined walls of the Chateau d'Arques still rear the proud memorials of a day that is dead. I don't suppose that the banker's daughter troubled herself much