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 Illustration: A Mystery in Scarlet, The London Miscellany No. 1

A MYSTERY IN SCARLET

by Malcolm J. Errym

Author of "Holly Bush Hall," "George Barrington," "Edith the Captive," "May Dudley,"  "Sea-Drift," "The Marriage of Mystery," "The Treasures of St. Mark," "The Octoroon," "The Court Page," "Secret Service," "Nightshade," "The Sepoys," &c.

CHAPTER I.

WAITING AND WATCHING.

The light is very dim, although it proceeds from а wax candle in a bright silver candelabrum. With a steady faint radiance, however, almost planetary in its fixedness, it spreads about it a dreary kind of twilight, bringing out into slight relief knobs and pinnacles of gold, silken fringes, rare bronzes, buhl cabinets, and many an article of art and luxury in a small arched apartment, where it lives and burns so calm and [steadfast].

 The stillness was profound—so profound that it brought with it its exception in the slight monotonous tick-tick of a Louis Quatorze clock, all Sèvres and gilding.

 And upon the huge chimneypiece which carried this Time's chronicle leant a man upon his elbows, ruffling the ample wig which it was the fashion of the time for him to wear from off his brow, a brow so wrinkled and corrugated that it more resembled some strange fabric which had been exposed to the action of fire than anything human.

 His eyes, small, suspicious, and twinkling, were fixed upon the clock.

 His mouth seemed twitching with a desire to speak, but the thin bloodless lips produced no sound.

 That this man was suffering from some great agitation was sufficiently evidenced in every line of his countenance, as well as by the rapid patting of one of his feet upon the floor.

 Apprehension.

 Expectation.

 Fear.

 Remorse.

 Which was it? All and every one of these feelings and passions seemed to chase each other like storm-clouds across his countenance, almost at times imparting to it a dignity in which it was ordinarily sorely wanting, for if the genius of meanness, avarice, pettiness, and small cringing craft ever took up its abode in a human heart, it did in that man's; and Nature with a free and liberal hand had indicated on the countenance without what was to be expected from within.

He suddenly changed his posture.

He drew a long breath.

He tapped his chest slightly, and then with his right hand gave the back of his head a peculiar slight blow, which, by his repeating it frequently, as we shall see him do, was evidently one of these strange habits which make up the individuality of humanity.

Tramp, tramp, tramp.

He paced the room to and fro.

A mean, crouching, contemptible figure, dressed in the wide-skirted collarless coat, with its ample cuffs, of some hundred years ago.

But the material of the dress was costly; the long silk stockings, dragged entirely over the knees, were of the rarest description; the diamond buckles in the shoes glittered and glistened with a thousand prismatic tints.

For the rest, there was no ornament on or about this man that could be observed, but yet there was that indefinable something in his look and bearing, mean and contemptible as they were—in his walk, shuffling and uncertain as it was—which bespoke a will and a purpose in the habit of asserting themselves and meeting with consideration.

He paused in his fidgety perambulation—paused immediately opposite that one wax light—and then its rays fell more fully upon his countenance, illuminating him to the same extent that it did a portrait hanging on the opposite wall, and so situated that the wax light was as nearly as possible midway between this man of many perturbations and the picture.

The gilt frame of the portrait had a miniature crown above it, and the pictured presentment was that of some one in regal robes.

There was the rich crimson velvet and ermine of royalty—the sceptre, the crown, and all the other insignia of the highest regal state—and beneath the pictured crown there was a small portion of the corrugated brow; there were the little mean crafty eyes, the thin bloodless lips.

Of a surety this regal portrait was that of the man who stood regarding it—apparently regarding it—for he certainly saw it not, except with that abstract gaze with which an object may seem to be looked at, while the mental vision travels right through it, and wanders far away to a thousand unknown objects.

His Most Gracious Majesty King George the Second of these realms.

If the portrait could have spoken, that is the account which its thin bloodless lips would have given of itself.

If the gentleman with the wide-skirted coat, the deranged wig, and the diamond shoe buckles had condescended to speak, that is the account he would have given of himself.

Perhaps he would have added that he was at that present time very much disturbed in his relations abroad.

Very much more disturbed with his relations at home, and particularly with one Frederick, Prince of Wales, and heir apparent to the British Throne.

And more particularly still, on that evening—or we should rather say night, for the jumble of Sèvres and gilding on the chimneypiece indicates ten minutes to twelve—by something that was to happen at the hour of midnight.

The royal countenance, therefore, as we have said, presented a kind of map or chart of these emotions, and as in chemical science many things each of themselves harmonious, graceful, and fair-seeming, when commingled produce uncomfortable results, so the aggregate of these sentiments and passions on the face of his Majesty was anything but agreeable.

And now he drummed upon the table with his fingers, and had he been aware of the line—which probably he was not—he might have exclaimed—

‘Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.’

 He paced the room again.

"Only five minutes more!"

Those were the first words spoken by royalty since we have had the distinguished honour of introducing it to our readers.

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"Only five minutes more. Let him go. Let him go to the—a—where he is to go. Peoples" (his Majesty had a habit of pluralising)—"peoples should not have secrets dangerous to exalted personages—that is to say, dangerous to the country—and if peoples will have secrets they must be let go. Ah!"

There was the lightest of all possible footsteps.

There was the faintest possible creak of a door upon its hinges.

The king shaded his eyes with one hand, and glanced in the direction of the sounds, obtaining by these means a perspective view of some one, commencing at the crown of the head, and travelling down a back that was horizontally foreshortened.

"May it please your Majesty, he has come."

"Hash!"

This is the nearest approach to the sound uttered by the royal lips angrily, interjectionally, and accompanied by a something between a snort and a sneeze that seemed peculiarly alarming to the gentleman who had presented the perspective appearance, for he disappeared at once. Then the king tried to steady himself on these uncertain wilful legs of his, as he took from the profound depths of his ample waistcoat pocket a gold snuffbox blazing with diamonds.

Ноw white he turned!

Have we talked of his bloodless lips?

We were wrong, except comparatively. They must have had blood in them, for now they looked sharp, crisp, and dead, and wonderfully different from what they were before.

 Tap, tap. Rap, rap.

 His trembling fingers earnestly appeal to the lid of the snuffbox, but he seems to have lost the capacity to open it.

 Then his legs become more wilful and capricious still, and he sways to and fro, still tapping the snuff box, and still turning whiter, whiter, whiter.

 The clock strikes.

The stillness, so profound, seems broken, like the sudden fracture of a pure mirror into a thousand fragments, by these soft silvery sounds.

They cease.

 The silence and the semi-darkness join together again into a peaceful whole, and all is still—still as death—still as—

Crash! Bang! bang!

The king dropped the snuffbox.

What was it?

 What sounds were these which at that peaceful midnight hour frighted the royal palace of Kew from its propriety?—startled the slumbering birds from their leafy roosts in the tall old trees of the royal gardens?—Scared the royal household into glaring wakefulness?—awakened with apprehensive starts the drowsy sentinels at the garden gates?

Thunder?

No.

Lightning rending its way through the riven sinews of some ancient oak?

 No.

 Musketry?

 A volley, crashing and tearing through some wood work not very far from that small royal chamber in which Majesty has passed so uneasy a half hour.

What can it be?—what can it mean? None of the leaden messengers of death let loose on their flight by that crashing volley have found their way to the royal breast or brain, and yet sympathetically the king falls before the discharge, and sits in as undignified a manner as possible on the floor of the apartment.

 One trembling arm is wound round the leg of a table.

 The other is stretched towards the door at which the one intruder into the royal privacy had already made an appearance, for slowly and gently that door is again opened, and the gentleman who evidently objected to be seen otherwise than foreshortened and in perspective, reappears.

 "May it please your Majesty, he is—"

"Hash!"

 The intruder backs out and the door closes. The wax candle has burnt down to its socket, and now it casts up, as if in derision of its own previous weak efforts at illumination, a bright ambient flame for a moment, and then expires.

 There is the roll of a drum.

 There are the faint notes of a bugle.

 Then all is still again, and darkness, silence, mystery, and surely death brood in and about the ancient regal residence and all its surroundings and belongings.

CHAPTER II.

SECRET SERVICE.

"Who goes there?"

"A friend."

"The word, friend?"

"Crown."

 "Pass on—all's well."

 The soldier on duty at the garden gate of Kew Palace grounded his firelock, and looked curiously after the stranger who had passed his post, a tall military-looking figure wrapped in a roquelaire cloak of some grey-looking colour which seemed to harmonise with and melt into the shadows of the night.

 But the word was given correctly, and although the sentinel watched the figure of the stranger until it seemed to melt away in the darkness, he had no particular reason either to be suspicious or curious on the subject.

 It was a quarter to twelve.

 Then when the soldier, knowing that he had one hour more of duty on his post, composed himself, so to speak, into the easiest attitude he could, he was again aroused to immediate attention by the steady march of what his practised ears at once announced to him to be a sergeant's guard on some special duty.

 "Right face! March! Silence! Halt!"

 The sentinel stepped forward from the deep shadow cast by the sentry box. The night was one of those semi-dark ones on which objects can, after some time and practice, be seen tolerably well in consequence of a reflected light cast down upon the earth from huge pyramids of clouds unusually high in the heavens.

And it was by that light that the sentinel saw an officer of his regiment, one Captain Weed Markham, apparently in command of the handful of men usually committed to the charge of a non-commissioned officer.

 "Sentry."

 "Here, captain."

 "Until further orders you will hold this post against all comers or goers, and whatever you see or whatever you hear is no alarm. You comprehend?"

 "Quite, captain."

 "Forward. March."

 The guard passed through the small wicket gate in the large mass of ornamental ironwork, and, like the mysterious stranger who had so recently preceded, it was soon engulphed in the deep shadows of the ancient garden.

 "Halt!"

 The officer then spoke in a dry, strange, unnatural voice.

 "Each man will take off his shoes and leave them on this spot. He will then load with ball cartridge, and he will be assured that in doing his duty this night he is of special service to his king and—and his country—of course his country. Silence and caution!"

 Very faintly the steel ramrods rattled in the musket barrels.

 The tone then in which the officer gave the order to proceed was stranger still—so strange, indeed, that these men who knew him well might, under other circumstances, have doubted his identity.

 And he must have had some soft noise-suppressing covering over his boots, for although he did not relieve himself of them, his footsteps fell as lightly as these of the men who had done so.

 Winding round and about the old trees, passing through the deeper shadows of the little nooks and temples of the garden, the military party took its way towards a low ancient doorway which led through a small conservatory into a portion of the palace seldom used since the early part of the preceding reign. Then the officer tapped lightly with his sword-hilt upon the upper panel of a door, faintly discernable by the dimmest of all dim lamps placed in a niche above it. The door opened.

 Opened, because it seemed to do so without human agency, for no one was visible when the officer, followed by the light-treading guard, passed through.

 Then there was a narrow passage, then a circular room, another door opening mysteriously like the first, a shorter passage, six steps thickly covered with crimson cloth, at the head of which the officer paused again, for some heavy scarlet hangings impeded his progress.

  He did not order a halt, hut he laid his hand upon the foremost man, and the soldiers comprehended him, for they could see him dimly, since this tortuous route through the palace was here and there lighted by those faint lanterns which might be said to do little more than make darkness visible.

 The massive curtain is slightly agitated.

 A hand and arm project from the other side.

 The hand plucks the officer by the wrist, and, leaning forward, he becomes to all appearance entangled in the folds of the heavy drapery.

 "Captain Markham?"

 "Yes—the same."

 "Captain Weed Markham?"

 "Yes, yes."

 The officer replied somewhat impatiently

 "He has come."

 "Ah!"

 [“]I have told a personage that he has come."

 "Oh!"

 "And the personage said 'Hash!'"

 "Ah!"

 "Captain."

 "Well, Master Norris."

 " You—you—you know your duty—that is, you know the—the special—the kind of—the—the good service."

"Mr. Norris, you are his Majesty's confidential valet, and I am bound to believe that when you come to me and say it is his Majesty's pleasure that you do this or do that you have authority from his Majesty to say so much, and, as a soldier obeying his superior officer, I obey, without question, without thought, without reservation, and, as I hope, to Heaven—

 The officer slightly raised his cap.

 "As I hope, to Heaven[,] without responsibility."

"Yes, yes. He is here."

The valet clutched the officer more tightly by the wrist, and the officer, as though he himself that moment needed support, laid a heavy hand upon the shoulder of the valet.

The palace clock was striking twelve.

"Captain, it is the room next to this, next to this in which I stand. He—he occupies the centre of the floor. The tapestry alone divides the two apartments, and the time has come."

 "Forward!"

 How faintly the order was given!

 How silently it was obeyed!

 There was nо light in the room on the other side of the heavy curtain, but from the adjoining apartment further on still, or rather from that half of the one apartment which was shut off by ancient massive tapestry, there came gleaming through chinks and holes in the old fabric soft pencils of light and moonlike radiances.

 Then the valet crouched down, and he seemed to desire to hold by the skirt of the officer, but the latter shook him off, and, turning to his men, he spoke huskily and whisperingly, pointing as he did so to the tapestry through which gleamed the precarious faint illumination.

 "Make ready!"

 The grasp of the valet tightened, for he had transferred it now to the officer's arm, and he would not be shaken off. "Present!"

 The valet let the officer go and clasped his hands over his eyes.

 Then the officer stooped low towards him, speaking in a low hissing whisper.

 "Your name is Norris, and you are the king's valet?"

 "Yes. You know."

 "Do you bring me any special orders from his Majesty?"

 "Why, you know, captain."

 "I know nothing. What special orders do you bring me from his Majesty?"

 "Why, to fire."

 The officer rose up.

 Loudly and clearly his voice rang through the apartment.

 "By order of the king, fire!"

 The musket volley within these walls and in the confined space sounded tremendous, although, probably, the echo through the palace was really much slighter than the roar and crash seemed to warrant.

 There was a sound, too, of breaking glass, for doubtless the concussion of the air had done its work upon one of the windows.

 The huge piece of tapestry that divided the room into two portions must have rotted on its supports, for the violence to which it had been subjected brought it down in one mass to the floor of the apartment, and exhibited, like a spectacle at a theatre, all that lay beyond it.

 Amid the smoke from the discharge of the muskets and a cloud of dust which had arisen from the fall of the old tapestry there appeared standing in the centre of the room into which the soldiers had filed a tall and graceful figure—the most notable feature of which seemed to be its bright scarlet clothing.

 Long fair hair, instead of the obnoxious wig so common at the period, fell nearly to the shoulders of the figure, and the bright scarlet coat was confined at the waist by what appeared to be a sash of white silk, which contrasted sharply with the rest of the dress.

 "Treachery! treachery!" exclaimed the person thus dimly but sufficiently seen.

"Treachery and murder!"

 He held his hands above his head, as though imprecating vengeance upon those who had assailed him.

 Then the valet clutched the officer again by the arm and tried to whisper to him, but, failing to do so, degenerated into a shrieking voice as he said—

  "It is his Majesty's orders that if the discharge of musketry fails to kill this person you finish—"

 "Peace, wretch! I am a soldier, not an assassin."

 "But it is his Majesty's orders."

 "Obey them, then, yourself. I will go the length of arresting this person, since death seems to have passed him by.”

 "No, he bleeds," cried the valet.

 The tall stranger in scarlet reeled round upon his heels, and clasping his hands upon his breast, removed them covered with blood.

 "Treachery!" he gasped. "Murder, murder!"

 The officer sprang forward.

 Forgetting the accumulated tapestry upon the floor, his feet became entangled in it, and he was nearly falling.

  In the effort to save himself he slightly wounded his own arm with his sword, and then before he could recover his footing sufficiently to take renewed action the wounded man had twice or thrice reeled round and round in a strange fashion.

 It seemed as though that were his only mode of progression. 

A something compounded of the desire to move onward and the propensity to fall.

 And so he reached a tall window in the apartment, and, reeling round once more, his own weight crashed him through it, and in a moment he was gone.

 But the officer had recovered from his stumble, and,

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 although he had lost his sword, and cared not to stoop amid the fallen tapestry to look for it, he rushed forward in the reeling footsteps of the bleeding fugitive.

And so, through the broken window, missing the first of a flight of marble steps that let down to the home gardens of the palace, half falling, half leaping, until he reached the green sward, the officer made his way into the night air, on the blood-stained track of the wounded man.

He saw him dimly.

 He saw him clutching by the low boughs of a tree— boughs that stretched themselves like huge hands with many fingers horizontally above the ground, and not above four or five feet from it.

The fugitive could fly no further.

 Another moment, and the officer's hand was upon his shoulder.

 And then, аs chance would have it, a huge ruck of piled-up clouds swept from before the face of the sky, and, serenely beautiful, a young moon looked down upon the old gardens of Kew Palace—upon the slated roof, the red bricks, the many windows, and the numerous intricacies of the palatial building.

 Swaying and swinging [from] the bough which supported him, the wounded man seemed by some special attraction to turn his face towards that fair faint moonlight.

 The officer who had played so conspicuous a part in this drama of death for the first time then obtained a full and perfect view of the face of the wounded man.

 It was troubled, painful, and sad to look upon.

 There was nothing vicious, coarse, or brutal.

 There was nothing which bespoke the conspirator, the assassin, or even the adventurer.

 It might be that the majesty of death, being all but there present, had chased away the meaner and commoner passions of humanity, and idealised—so to speak —that blanched and anxious countenance.

 He had no strength now to clasp his hands upon his breast, gently slipping though he was from his hold upon the bough, and so unstaunched there welled forth the life stream from his wound.

 He felt the touch of the officer's hand upon his shoulder, and, turning his eyes from a contemplation of the silvery crescent, sailing so majestically through that blue drift in the piled-up night clouds, he cast a look of anguish into the eyes of the officer.

 "You are badly hurt, my friend," said the latter, as he hastily removed his sash, and, folding it together, pressed it with a light and steady hand upon the wound.

 "You are badly hurt."

 "To the death!"

 The voice was very faint.

 The languour of the eyes increased each moment.

 And then the wounded man would have fallen to the ground, for his hold of the tree relaxed, but the officer flung his left arm around him, and hold him firmly up.

 "Guard! Guard!"

 "No, no, no."

 It was the officer who had called for the guard, but the tone of entreaty in which the wounded man checked him prevented a repetition of the summons.

 "But you are dying."

 "I am dying."

 "Some help might save you."

 "There is no help. It is treachery and murder."

 The officer was silent.

 The wounded man continued, evidently speaking with a great effort.

 "I will tell you, because I have looked into your face, and I feel and know that you could have had no part in this most foul assassination."

 Then the officer turned his eyes away, and there was a deep flush upon his brow.

 For some few bewildering moments he was debating within himself whether there was not a something in human life and human feeling higher than that artificial thing he called military duty, which had made him accessory to the fearful deed the consequences of which he saw before him.

 The wounded man gasped for breath, and, speaking with extreme difficulty, continued— "They lured me here, gave me the word to pass the sentinel, appointed the hour, and then—then—It is murder—murder."

 "Compose yourself. You must and shall have help."

 "No, no, no."

 "Lean on me. Perhaps I can carry you."

 "No. This is the end—this is the end. But I will yet leave the legacy of retribution. I will tell you all—all. The secret—"

 "What secret?"

 "Of my presence here. The why—the wherefore. The king appointed to meet me at midnight. His valet Norris was to conduct me to his presence. They gave me the word, I tell you, to pass the sentinel, they decoyed me here, and have murdered me."

 The officer's heart sank within him. Again that word "duty," upon which he had acted, assumed a shadowy phantom-like form in his imagination, and he felt himself but an accomplice in a deed of blood, the memory of which would haunt him until, like that wounded man, he was taking his last look of earth and sky.

"Speak again," he cried in tones of deep emotion.

 "Tell me. You had no evil purpose?"

 "None."

 "You are no traitor?"

 "No, no."

 "No conspirator? No assassin seeking the life of the king?"

 "No, no."

 "No plotter against the safety of the state?"

 "No. Hush! I will tell you. There is a secret."

 "Ah! you said so."

 "A secret with a fair price attached to it—a price which, if paid, would have surrounded one happy life with joy and sunshine—a price which, if paid, would have sanctified every piece of gold by its high and holy uses. Who are you? I ask, who are you?"

 "I am—"

 The officer paused.

 He might do so, for the wounded man seemed to have forgotten the question, and continued speaking in anguish-stricken accents.

 And the officer was grateful that the night clouds had again swept over that crescent moon—grateful that he could only see dimly the pale face so near to his own—grateful that these languid dying eyes could not look so searchingly into his, and perchance see there the consciousness of guilty participation in the deed of murder.

 And then the stillness of the night air was broken by a few light taps of a drum.

 Some military form at that hour was going [through] at the guard-house.

 From the cavalry barracks at Hampton Court came softly a few faint notes of a bugle.

 All was still again, and the wounded man lay so heavily upon the arm of the officer that he might almost be said to rest upon his breast.

CHAPTER III.

OUT IN THE STORM.

 How faintly he spoke now!

 "To you—to you, who have neither heart nor part in this foul crime, I will tell all, and you will promise me—promise me this, that you, too, will seek the reward —the price of the almost priceless secret? And you will seek it for her sake, and be to her what I would have been? You hear me? You hear me?"

 "I hear you, but I do not comprehend."

 "No?"

 "No. I neither know your secret, nor am I aware of whom you speak when you mention 'her.'"

 "In Westminster—the house is old—you go by the Abbey gate—you cannot miss it. There is a projecting gable, a carved waterspout, grotesque and grim. The windows are latticed—a flowering climber nearly covers one of them. You cannot miss it. You will find her there waiting—waiting—waiting—"

 "For what? For whom?"

 "For me."

 "And who—"

 "Yes, for me—for the loving eye she will never look upon again—for the tender voice whose accents never more will reach her ears—for the footsteps that never more will awaken in her heart the echo of a joy."

 "But—"

 "Oh! listen, listen. Speak not, but listen. The secret—it may not be spoken even to the night-air—it may not be uttered beneath the stars, or amid the low rustling of the leaves of forest trees. Hush!"

 There were sounds now of general alarm throughout the palace.

 Many of the royal household had risen alarmed from their beds, and, hastily dressed, had now rushed out into the corridors of the building.

 Lights flashed from its many windows.

 There was no longer a light tapping of a drum in pursuance of some military etiquette, but a sharp continuous roll to summon the whole detachment to arms.

 "It will be too late," said the officer anxiously. "If you have any secret to impart to me, I pray you quickly do so, for you hear there is a general alarm."

 "I will, I will."

 The officer bent down his head, for the voice now was little more than a whisper.

 "Speak. I cannot hear you."

 "Lower still."

 The dying man cast his arms about the officer. There was something almost affectionate in the action.

 "By your hopes of heaven," he whispered—"by all you ever loved or hope to love—by all the peace and happiness that may belong to a human heart, I implore you to be to her what I was—what I would have been."

 "Yes; hut the secret?"

 "The secret, the secret."

 Nearer and nearer still he approached his lips to the ear of the officer.

 And then the latter uttered an exclamation.

 "You dream—you rave!"

 "No, no. By my life—my death—by all here that is fading—by all hereafter that is eternal, I swear it."

 By a great effort he lifted up one arm, dimly visible in the night air.

 "And you?" added the officer.

"Tell me before it be too late who and what are you and what price was really put upon this secret."

 "Half a million."

 "By whom?"

 "The king."

 "And you? Answer my question—who and what are you?"

 The arms relaxed.

 That which was pointed upwards fell heavily.

 "I аш—I am— "Yes; I hear."

 "I am—"

 "I listen. Speak again."

 "A Mystery in Scarlet!"

 The weight wonderfully increased in the officer's arms, and he felt, as he gently relieved himself of it on the soft green sward at his feet, that never more would these eyes look upon earth or sky.

 "Half a million!" he exclaimed. "Half a million! And I—I am now, if it so please me, the Mystery in Scarlet. I am the depositor of that dread secret which may not be uttered even to the night-air, but which a king values at so regal a price. What shall I do? How shall I act? At once, on impulse, or after much reflection? There is no time for thought. I must declare this secret even now before leaving the grounds and the place, or keeping it four and twenty hours, I may keep it for a lifetime."

 "Forward! March!"

 Sentinels were being posted at every avenue of the gardens, and stringent military possession was taken of the whole establishment.

 The officer slowly made his way in the direction of the advancing guard.

 "Who goes there?"

 "A friend. Crown! I believe I speak to Colonel Montague?"

 "A lantern here. By George! in this darkness one can scarcely see friend from foe. Are you on duty here, Captain Markham?"

 "I was, colonel, and had a guard with me, which should be somewhere about this spot."

 "Hush! hush! All is right. All is well."

 Some one jerked at the skirts of Captain Markham, and he knew it was the valet Norris who addressed him.

 "There seems to be a general alarm," added Colonel Montague. "My men say they heard the sound of firearms in the palace, and Major Dean, the equerry on duty, called out the whole guard. Can you throw any light upon the matter, Captain Markham?"

 Before the officer could reply the valet stepped forward.

 "I can, sir," he said. "It is by his Majesty's order I have to say there is no alarm—nothing amiss—no danger; and that his Majesty, thanking all for their zeal and devotion, desires that everything should subside into the former condition."

 "With all my heart," said Colonel Montague. "I suppose, Markham, we may take these instructions?"

 "I think so."

 "Right about face! March!"

 Norris drew Captain Markham a few paces on one side.

 "Where is the—the body?"

 Markham pointed in the direction whence he had come.

 "Dead?"

 "Dead."

 "You are sure?"

 "I am sure."

 "Then his Most Gracious Majesty desires your acceptance of this ruby ring, taken from his own most gracious finger, and graciously says that he thanks Captain Markham, and shall be most happy at any time graciously to accord Captain Markham any fayour which it may be fit for his Majesty graciously to grant and Captain Markham to desire. At the same time Captain Markham, by his Majesty's express orders, will totally and entirely forget everything that has happened between half-past eleven this night and half-past twelve."

 "Indeed?"

 "Exactly."

 Markham took the ring which was tendered to him, and after two or three trials found one of his fingers that it would fit. "I have likewise," added Norris, "the distinguished honour of handing to Captain Markham his sword, which he accidentally left in the palace; and, in conclusion, I have the distinguished honour of bidding Captain Markham good night, and to state that it is beginning to rain."

 The words "gracious" and "Majesty" had been so frequently in the mouth of the valet during this speech that he forgot he was not actually in the presence of royalty, and he bowed so low that, but for the darkness and the close thick misty shower that began to fall, Captain Markham might have enjoyed the same perspective view of Norris which was usually presented to the king.

 But the officer's mind was in too great a state of agitation, and his spirits in too tumultuous a condition to permit him to take much notice of a person whom he held in such light esteem.

 He took the sword mechanically, and, holding it by its blade, returned it somewhat clumsily to its scabbard.

 Then the rain strengthened, for a moment coming slantways in a sweeping gush from under the trees.

 A low murmuring sound likewise among the topmost branches of these old royal oaks and elms sufficiently betokened some change in the weather aspects of a boisterous character.

 Then Captain Weed Markham, as the rain dashed against his face, removed his cap, and pressed his hand languidly across his brow.

 "Farewell," he said. " Farewell to peace and that

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 serenity of soul which until now has walked hand in hand with me through life. I am now the depository of a fearful secret—a secret which must mar or make me mortally for ever."

 With a dejected look, and walking listlessly, he took his way towards the garden gate, and, unchallenged, passed out of the royal domain.

 A low muttering of distant thunder came upon his ears, and, the rain suddenly ceasing, a hot sulphurous rush of air seemed to sweep over the spot.

 Then there was a vivid flash of lightning, blue and dazzling as though some thin stream of molten steel had sprung from out the depths of a black cloud overhead.

 "Let the storm rage," said Captain Markham. "Thank Heaven, I have neither kith nor kin. I am alone in all this wide world, unloving and unloved, and but for the strange chance that interested the Duchess of Mechlenburgh in my fortunes, inducing her first to place me as page to the king, from whence, by the common transition, I attained a commission in the Guards, I might have perished of starvation, even in such a storm as this."

 He cared not to shelter himself.

 He seemed to feel a refreshment and a pleasure in the now colder rush of the wind and the sudden fall of hailstones that struck him sharply, lodging and piling themselves in odd corners and crevices of his accoutrements, and making his cheeks tingle with the slight pain of their petty assaults.

 "Yes," he said. "Alone! Alone! And more alone now than over, with the silent companionship of that state secret, which clings to me with all the weight of some personal misfortune."

 Slowly he took his way onward, and the storm raged about him.

 He suddenly paused.

 "Let me remember. What said he of one to whom he besought me to be what he had been, and be what he'd fain be? What were his words?"

 Captain Markham, with his hands clasped over his eyes, seemed better able to look back to the fearful scene beneath the old tree, when the dying man bequeathed to him an unknown affection and an unexplained anxiety which he had all but promised to adopt.

 The events of the night had been so rapid, so fearfully incidental, so full of alarms, dramatic passions, and fearful catastrophes, that they mingled together in his mind in a perfect chaos.

 Out of that chaos, by a great effort, he tried to depict to himself a connected chain of events.

 It was only by going back to the very first of these occurrences that he was able to arrive at such an arrangement.

 The order to take a sergeant's guard and march to the palace.

 The order that they should approach with such silence and caution as to make it necessary the men should leave their shoes on the green turf without.

 The route through the dimly-lighted passages and rooms to the massive curtain.

 The words and orders of the valet.

 The tapestry through which shone forth the minute rays and pencils of light.

 His own scruples and dread of something he knew not what.

 The order to fire, and the fall of the tapestry.

 The smoke, the dust, and the despairing image reeling round and round of that man in scarlet.

 The flight, and the half stumble through the window.

 The interview of the dying man of mystery beneath the tree.

 "Yes, yes," exclaimed Markham. "I have it now! I have it now! An old house in Westminster—a little past the gate of the Abbey—the peculiar gable and a carved waterspout—some climbing plants at one of the windows. I am to seek something there that he loved, and for which he contrived, and plotted, and died.["]

 One!

 The palace clock had struck the hour.

 Captain Markham was off duty until the morning, from that hour, and with scarcely a defined purpose he made his way towards the stables of a little barrack-like building, long since removed, where the horses of the officers of the guard found quarters.

 "Captain Markham."

 He turned abruptly.

 "His Majesty, graciously considering the great service—"

 "Oh, is it you, Mr. Norris?"

 "Your humble servant, captain. But his Majesty, graciously considering—"

 "What is it now, Norris?" exclaimed Markham impatiently. "If you have another ring to give me, doubtless I shall find a finger to fit it."

 "No, captain. His Majesty only desires that you should drink his health in some of his own muscatel, as further assurance of his good will."

 "A thousand thanks, a thousand thanks. I hate the wine."

 "Hem! But, captain, his Gracious Majesty might take it a little amiss—

 "As how?"

 "Having sent down his own gold cup to the guard chamber."

 "Ah!"

 "Even so, captain—the chamber by the chapel—that in which the Oriental arms are kept. You know the room, captain?"

 "Well. How the storm rages!"

 "Yes, captain; and were we not now under cover of this cloistered archway, at the extremity of which is a door leading to the very chapel in question, we might well be driven before the wind and washed into the Thames itself by the fury of the wind and rain."

 "Present my humble duty to his Majesty, and say that, as regards the muscatel—"

 "Nay, nay, Captain Markham, nay; it is contrary to all etiquette, all loyalty. It is contrary to—to every thing in all the world to refuse the king's courtesy. His own gold cup, too! There are but two of them— one for muscatel, one for sherris. There were three, but on the occasion of some unfortunate misunderstanding with his Royal Highness the Prince Frederick, his Gracious Majesty, after that illustrious scion had drunk from the cup—ahem!—without being asked, flung it through the window and some disloyal person made off with it. He! he! he! oh!"

 "Well, well; I will taste the muscatel, since etiquette will have it so."

 "Yes, certainly. He will taste the muscatel, since— since etiquette and fate, it's all fate, will have it so."

 Down the gloomy cloister which connected that portion of the barracks with some straggling outbuildings and a half-ruined chapel belonging to the palace Captain Markham followed the valet.

 A little Gothic door conducted at once into the chapel, and a similar door at the further extremity into a room containing the Oriental armour which gave it its name.

 In that room there was a light, and upon a table covered with rich arras was a gold cup richly chased.

 Norris rubbed one hand over the other and tried to say something, but his voice failed him.

 His teeth chattered and his limbs trembled as though he had been suddenly transported to the bitterest regions of the far North.

 "What is the matter?"

 "The—the mat—mat—matter?"

 "Yes. Why do you tremble?"

 "Tr——tr—tremble?"

 Norris managed, however, to point to the cup, and to signify that the officer was to drink.

 "Nay, Mr. Norris," said Markham coldly, and fixing his eyes upon the trembling wretch before him—"nay, Mr. Norris, I am well."

 "Well?"

 "Yes, quite well. There is no cold chill at my heart, and the warm blood courses its way from head to foot in warm and healthful measure."

 "Wa—wa—warm?"

 "While you, on the contrary, Mr. Norris, seem chilled to the very marrow, and this generous muscatel which the King's graciousness sends to me would be thrown away upon my more phlegmatic system—"

 "Wh—what?"

 "While to you it would do a world of good."

 "No, no."

 "Drink!"

 "Not for worlds."

 "Ah!"

 "It—it would anger his Majesty."

 "But his Majesty need never know, and I swear to you upon the honour of on officer and a gentleman—swear to you even on my sword—that not only will I never betray your breach of etiquette—but I further swear that you shall drink it!"

 The valet uttered a yell of dismay and rushed from the armoury.

 The officer laid his sword gently upon the table.

 There was a look of anguish upon his face.

 He wrung his hands, and uttered low moans.

 Then, making great efforts, striking himself upon the breast as he did so, he strove to recover his composure.

 "They seek my life—they seek my life. They suspect me. I walk in the danger of knowing too much. They seek my life—they seek my life!"

 Clasping his hands upon his brow, he sat down by the table, resting his head upon it.

 There is a faint rustle as if some of the Oriental arms hanging on one of the panels of the room had become instinct with life.

 Then the panel itself, carrying the arms with it, gradually gapes open.

There is a face at the aperture.

 The reader has seen that face before—seen it at an earlier hour of that night, listening and working with all the evil passions, seamed, mapped out, and corrugated with a thousand fears, watching in its every lineament for the midnight hour to strike.

 It was the face of that monarch, so overflowing with graciousness, according to the account of Norris the valet.

 "Hu! hu! hu!"

 That was a kind of royal chuckle.

 Then two skinny hands projected through the opening, and seemed, as they wore rubbed over each other, to be congratulating themselves upon some agreeable climax.

 And there was a look of fiendish satisfaction on the face, and a baleful twinkle of the eyes.

 "Hu! hu! hu! Both dead."

 Markham looked up.

 "Hash!"

 Bang wont the panel door, and the Majesty of England disappeared.

(To be continued in our next.)