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 XXXVII.

THE PHANTOM DRUM.

Darkness.

Nothing but darkness.

A darkness so black, so perfectly opaque, that, popularly speaking, you could not have seen your hand before your eyes.

That was the darkness that surrounded the king in the old palace at Whitehall when the royal foot acted as an extinguisher, sudden and complete, of that little squat waxlight which had scattered some of the shadows in those gloomy chambers.

The light had been very dim, very inefficient, very perplexing and uncertain, but since it is a principle of human nature never thoroughly to appreciate the use of anything until it has passed away, so when that uncertain and precarious light was at once extinguished, the darkness, in its palpable intensity, seemed something terrible and profound.

It was no longer a negation.

It became a substance—a thickening pall-like gloom —out of which the king was trying in vain to struggle.

"Help! help! A light! a light! Treason! treason!"

But treason was nothing to the darkness.

Treason in broad daylight, with the sun shining— treason illuminated by the chandeliers of St. James's Palace —treason of which you could see the form, shape, and substance—would be endurable; but in the midst of that terrible darkness it was tenfold more dangerous and dreadful, for it seemed to penetrate the very air above and around him.

He wanted to see it.

He wanted to understand the precise shape, natural or supernatural, which it assumed, and therefore the royal cry became one for light, and light only.

"Lights! lights! lights! Help for lights! Lights! lights!"

Where was Norris?

Where was the man who should have replied to the royal invocation?

Had terror frozen up all his faculties?

Was his tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth?

And was the strange sound which the king at intervals heard in the thick black air of the chamber the efforts of Norris to articulate?

"Lights! lights!"

Afraid to move—-afraid to turn and fly in any direction, lest by so doing he should make his way into the very arms of danger.

No advance—no retreat—nothing but that wild cry for light, where light there was none.

And then — then it was either fancy or reality, but the king thought something touched him—thought that some vapour passed across his face like the cold breath of an iceberg.

And that was too much for human nature, even in its royal variety.

With one more half-stifled frantic cry for light, his most gracious Majesty King George the Second fell to the floor in a swoon, which for a time certainly relieved him from the cares of royalty, while at the same time it placed him at the mercy of any enemy who might choose to take advantage of his insensible condition.

The stillness was something awful, silence and dark ness making up together a something so totally adverse to anything that was human and vital that the place became strange and cavernous, as though that deserted regal building had sunk fathoms deep into some old primeval cavity, where silence had been the presiding divinity since the world's creation.

But there was soon that strange noise again—the strange noise as if some one were trying to speak, and trying in vain.

It was but the resemblance.

Norris had crouched behind a very large velvet- covered chair, and, holding it with both his hands, he shook it, in the tremor of his fears, slightly to and fro upon its long-disused castors, and so produced the strange sound.

Five minutes—ten minutes elapsed.

The silence was still complete, with the one exception we have pointed out, that the darkness was not so black, not so opaque as it had been.

There was a very dim ruby kind of radiance at one end of the room, and as Norris's fears somewhat sub sided, and he ventured to look round one arm of the large chair and take an observation, he was able to get up some theory on the subject of this strange ruddy light.

There must have been a fire upon the hearth—a wood fire which had burnt down until it seemed to be nothing but white fleecy ash.

Beneath that ash, however, there must still have lingered the dull dark crimson glow of some unconsumed particles of the wood.

An accidental puff of air, the slight agitation of the atmosphere of the room, caused by the presence of persons within it, might even have been sufficient to lift aside some of the white fleecy ash, and permit the crimson embers to produce sonic effect upon the intense darkness.

Yes, that was it.

Norris felt quite sure that was it.

A fire was company.

It was something that seemed to live—something that seemed to belong to this world, and although dim and distant, and with the smallest possible modicum of warmth in it, yet the cold chill about his bones was not so intense, and his blood flowed more freely at the thought of it.

But what had happened?

That was the question.

Was he, Norris, alone there?

Or was he worse than alone, infinitely worse than alone, for was the dead with him?

Shall we say that the concentrated hatred of such a mind as Norris's, capable as it was of hatred, but in capable of affection, was the one feeling of all others that he possessed for the king? And yet shall we say that at this moment he would have given anything in reason, or perhaps a little out of reason, to hear the croaking wheezing tones of that royal voice?


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But all was still. Not a movement—not a sigh. Norris passed his hands over his brow, where the cold perspiration had settled in heady drops.

"They will say I did it," he groaned. "They will be sure to say I did it. Hem! My royal master—my gracious sovereign—if your Majesty will only condescend to utter one word to the most dutiful and humble of your subjects—eh?"

No. There was no reply.

"They have killed him," groaned Norris. "They must have killed him."

Then he reflected.

"I must fly. There is no resource. I must fly. I wonder if he has anything about him worth the taking. I must fly—fly for my life; and yet if anything will move him, I know a word, a name which may do it. Hem! Your gracious Majesty, allow me to state that his Royal Highness Prince Frederick will be here immediately."

No. There was no response even to that threat.

And so Norris considered that the king must be very dead indeed, to use his own muttered expression, and after a time, hearing nothing, and getting calmer and stiller as regarded his nervous fears, and being quite satisfied that whatever had happened in that chamber, assuming it to have had a beginning, a middle, and an end, had run its course and passed away, he took heart of grace and crept on his hands and knees towards the hearth.

If he could only get a light.

If he could only manage just to ascertain the exact position of affairs, then he might act accordingly. He might fly or not fly, as he saw occasion, but he must have a light—a light by all means. Norris tried it by placing small scraps of paper upon the decaying embers of the fire, and puffing at them with his breath.

One, two, three of them consumed, but produced no flame.

The fourth burst into a little flame, for which Norris was provided with a screwed-up paper match. Yes, he had a light now.

There was no time to play with it. He must make good use of it while he had it, or abandon it, and it was by great good luck that his eyes happened to fall upon a small table by the side of the fireplace, on which stood a tall candle and candlestick.

Another moment, and Norris had a light—a light that first of all was blight enough, and then, for a few seconds, showed symptoms of extinction, and then again; gradually shot up into as much brilliancy as it was capable of assuming, and, like a small star, scattered the dreary darkness of the room, and spread a soft and tender twilight upon every object.

There lay the king.

Was it a dead king?

Was it royalty levelled to that state where kings and beggars are alike equal?

Norris crept up to him very slowly. He thought it wise yet to bestow a little reverence even upon that inert-looking mass which in life he had been so accustomed to bow down to.

Moreover, he could not feel sure, by any means, but that that gracious monarch was only playing a part in some little fanciful drama, and testing the sincerity of his dependent's loyalty.

Norris, therefore, presented the top of his head to the prostrate form before him.

He spoke to it with all his usual whining deprecatory tones.

"Here is a light, your gracious Majesty. May I humbly hope that your Majesty is unhurt?

Nearer and nearer still crept Norris.

He knelt down by the side of the king.

He touched him.

Then he fetched the light, flashing it gently to and fro before the royal eyes.

There could be no doubt about it.

This was death, or some swoon that so closely resembled it that there could be no consciousness either of surrounding objects or of occurrences.

"Ha! ha!" cried Norris as he stood erect and folded his arms upon his chest. "Ha! ha! That's it, is it? Dead or insensible. Take that, then, curse you!"

The hearty kick that Norris dealt the inanimate form of the king seemed to be a wonderful relief to his feelings.

Then, with the candle in his hand, he leaped over him and gave him another kick.

"Ha! ha! There you are, are you? Old beast!

Ha! ha!" To and fro leaped Norris, like some acrobat who was bound to perform his feats with a lighted candle in his hands.

He had an idea then that it would be a good thing to walk up the king, beginning at his feet and ending on his face, where he could pause for a time and execute some pas seule, still with the lighted candle in his hand, and crying "Ha! ha!" as he did so. 

And it is highly probable that Norris would have executed this little piece of fiendish factiousness but that he was suddenly struck dumb with terror, and all his senses seemed concentrated in the one effort to listen, as a strange sound pervaded old Whitehall.

Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap.

It was the beat of a drum.

Unquestionably a drum; but where? Where was it? And how came it there?

Tap, tap, tap.

Nearer, nearer still.

It was no echo—no sound from afar off, from Westminster or from the park. No, it was the veritable tapping of a drum somewhere beneath the roof of that deserted pile.

Tap, tap, tap, and then a roll.

That drum, be it a reality or a phantom, was beaten by no unpractised hand, and nearer and nearer it approached, filling the heart of Norris with dismay.

What could it mean?

Was it help to the king? Or was it total destruction, even if life yet lingered in his frame?

Norris staggered back, shaking and trembling to such an excess that the light was in momentary danger of extinction.

And still upon the night air came that strange and ominous beating of a drum—not fierce and vociferous, or as if with a desire to make noise, but low, tender, and gentle—as low, as tender, and as gentle as such an instrument could be.

Таp, tap, roll. Tap, tap, roll.

Nearer and nearer still; and now was accomplished what all the kicking of Norris and what all his appeals and remonstrances had failed to accomplish—viz., the resuscitation of the king.

With a deep groan, he opened his eyes.

"Where are we? What—what—what has happened?"

Norris was at right angles again in an instant.

"My gracious sovereign, the humblest worm finds courage to address its king."

"Where are we? What has happened? Yet—yes, we hear the guard is changing. They should not—should not beat the drum so near our windows. What —what is it? We are ill—sick. What has happened? What has happened?"

"My gracious master."

"Ah!"

"Your Majesty recognises the voice of your humblest and most devoted subject."

"Norris."

"Oh! this is joy—this is delight! The gracious king recognises and names the abject worm whose only delight is to do him service. It brings tears into my eyes. Excuse my feelings, your gracious Majesty, excuse them."

Norris made a sound like a [b]umble bee in search of provisions.

"That drum! that drum! Silence! Are we a king? Ah!"

The king had made no attempt to rise, but he was bruised and shaken.

Probably those hearty kicks which had been dealt him by the valet had more to do with his dilapidated feelings than anything else.

"Norris."

"My royal master?"

"I must have fallen."

"Alas! alas! I too fell. Some one knocked me down and kicked me. I am all bruises."

"Hush!"

Norris did hush, and he trembled now so much with apprehension that he was compelled to set down the light, from short incapacity to hold it. The beating of me drum continued; and as the king partially raised himself on one arm, and as Norris clung to a chair for support, they both felt perfectly certain that the mysterious drummer, whether belonging to this world or to another, must have passed right through the adjoining room, entering it at one extremity and leaving it at the other, and still beating as he went, in that low monotonous style, a dreary and dismal march upon his drum.

"Norris, help us up—help us up. We are sick, and we are faint. The air of this place agrees not with us. We—we will come here no more. Help us, Norris, help us."

Norris still made the singular humming noise, expressive of his deeply sympathetic feelings, as he assisted the king to rise.

"It is like a dream, Norris—like a dream. We saw somebody, or something, and then there came darkness —thick palpable darkness—and then there is a blank—a blank."

"Oh! your Majesty, that is just what happened to the humblest of your subjects."

"Ah! This is more than strange. We feel ourself a mass of bruises. No ordinary fall could have done this. Ah!"

"And I, too, your gracious Majesty—and I too. Indeed, I have a sort of impression that as I lay upon the floor, overcome with my emotions, some fiend in human shape, or some other shape, actually kicked mc—kicked me, your gracious Majesty."

"Away! Come away! come away! We are bad—bad—sick and ill, Norris—sick and ill. Away! away! and no more to this place. It is ill-omened and full of —of—we know not what. Hark! that drum! We hear it still. There should be no drum here, no phantoms here. Phantoms? Phantoms? What phantoms? Away! away! We will away at once.—and, Norris, there is a cabinet here—an old cabinet—into which once we looked for a state paper. Let it be—that cabinet we mean—let it be removed bodily to-morrow to St. James's. We will separate it into splinters, so that we search it thoroughly. Hush!"

"Your Majesty?"

"Still that drum, still that drum. Away! Norris, away! It is something more than strange. But we are bruised and hurt. Away! away!"

Faintly and afar off, through the long-disused corridors, the stately galleries, and royal chambers of old Whitehall, still was heard the echo of the drum.

Tap, tap, roll. Tap, tap, roll.

Dick Martin was seeking for Bertha—peeking for her in vain—and scattering the accumulated dust of many a long year from the dreary ceilings of the old royal pile.


CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE WINGS OF DEATH.

Her Majesty the Queen was indisposed on that evening, at St. James's Palace, when the summary accusation, trial, and condemnation of Captain Markham had taken place. the various ladies in waiting, with the exception of her Majesty's tirewoman, had been released from attendance. 

Agnes Bellair was in low spirits.

Her heart was full of many contending emotions, and she perhaps found some difficulty in reconciling herself to the course of conduct she had adopted.

Her love for Captain Markham was one of those dreams, one of those shadowy emotions, which are so common in very early life, and which, born of the imagination and the purest sentiments, seldom stand the shocks of real every-day existence.

Some twenty or thirty words gently spoken, a manner, a tone—a general expression made up of all these things had placed the image of Captain Markham in her breast as though it were the arbiter of her destiny.

And there she had raised him to an ideal standard with which there could be nothing really to compare.

No other suitor could be tasteful to her while that most excellent phantom of the imagination held its place.

And but that we happen to know that Captain Markham is in reality everything that is noble, truthful, and generous, we might blame the love-sick sentimentality of Agnes Bellair, which on so slender an acquaintance erected such an idol in her heart.

The real character of Captain Markham pleads her justification, because everything that is emotional may be justified by its results—and love, of all things.

It is possible that in the economy of Nature there may be some beautiful and subtle something which binds together kindred hearts, and which, like, the first lash of a morning sunbeam on a mountain top, makes its own beauty and proves its own immortality.

But this fine appreciation of excellence, goodness, and nobility of soul which made Agnes Bellair cherish the image of Captain Markham because she believed him to possess those qualities was now awakened in its fullest force by the chivalric generosity of the young Marquis of Charlton.

Lucy Kerr had given an account of her interview with the young officer—not exactly such an account as we have given to the reader—but, at all events, a sufficient narration to let Agnes see that if there had been no Markham in the world it would still not have been destitute of a soul ranking among the highest and the purest

And so the heart of Agnes was heavy.

And on that evening she rested her face upon her hands, and seemed as though she could challenge all the world to produce another so unhappy as she was.

And Lucy Kerr paraded the room like some sentinel on duty, who had nothing to say, and nothing to do, but a stern duty that admitted of no compromise.

"Lucy," sobbed Agnes, "you do not speak to me."

"What can I say?"

"You do not strive to comfort me."

"My dear Agnes, there is no such thing as comfort in all the world."

"But I am so unhappy."

Lucy paused abruptly.

"Do you fancy that you are the only—well, how can I help you being unhappy?"

"You are unkind, Lucy."

"No; for I have a fancy that we most of us make or mar our own happiness."

"And have I marred mine?"

"If you are unhappy, yes."

"Lucy, you reason with me, but you do not console me."

"What is the matter?" exclaimed Lucy, almost defiantly.

"Why are you unhappy? And why do you complain? Are you like the children, Agnes, who eat their cake and then want it? What right have you to be unhappy?"

"It is not a right, Lucy; it is a feeling. But I will say no more, for you are half angry with me already, and I know not why."

"No," said Lucy, as she drew a long breath, "I am not angry with you. If I were to be so for half a moment I would be more angry with myself than I think I shall ever be with all the world. Come now, Agnes, why are you unhappy?"


p. 196

"It was very noble, very great, chivalrous, and beautiful—"

"What was?"

"The conduct of the Marquis of Charlton."

"Oh!" said Lucy. "You have found out that?"

"I did not think that—that—"

"Well?"

"I could scarcely have believed that beneath so quiet and calm a nature, so undemonstrative a demeanour, there was—there was such—

"Silence! Agnes. I will not hear you. I know what you are going to say, It is an outrage—an outrage, Agnes! You got me to go to this—this true gentleman, and tell him that you do not love him—you get me to do that—you get me to go through a scene that has made me old—old, Agnes! —look at mе; I am old; I feel that I am—you get me to do this, and then because he behaves as he was sure to behave—like one man among a thousand—a million—ten millions—you are struck by what you call his nobility of soul, which you could not see, because he did not wear his heart upon his sleeve; and now you—you—you—well, never mind."

Lucy Kerr resumed her march.

Agnes looked up at her with a bewildered air.

"Indeed, now, Lucy, I see that you are angry with me, and I see that I deserve it. I have cast away from me the heart that was all my own, because that, in the dim halo of my imagination, I fancied there existed another that —that—that perhaps has never cast a thought on me."

"Yes!" cried Lucy, and she frightened Agnes by giving n blow to the table in a rather unladylike manner. "Yes! It is the old fable of the substance and the shadow. But I suppose it is all right. Of course it is all right. This is the way we always go on, fencing and lighting with ourselves, wrapping our hearts up in mists and shadows, and then we are unhappy—of course, we аre unhappy—and life becomes but a game of cross purposes, in which we are bewildered till the evening comes, when all is peace. But the day is very long—very long—and it must needs be very weary."

Boom!

Agnes sprang to her feet.

Lucy Kerr looked white, and shook as she rested her hand upon the table.

"What was that, Lucy?"

"I don't know."

"It sounded like—like—"

"Like a discharge of musketry. I have heard such before at reviews and sham fights."

"But what can it mean at this hour?"

"I don't know. Hush!"

"Ladies," said Lady Grumpsch, as she entered the room in a very undignified fashion, and fell into a chair, which creaked ominously under her, "ladies, I vants strong vaters for faints. It ish great shocks. Who has strong vaters for faints?"

Upon the utterance of these words Lady Grumpsch stretched out her arms and legs, and assumed very much the appearance of a Judy in Punch's show after receiving those severe blows on the head with a hoop-stick that produce her premature decease, until the establishment goes into the next street.

"What is the matter, Lady Grumpsch?" asked Lucy hurriedly.

"Eggsingution!"

"What?"

"Eggsingution! He vas nice young man and vot you calls faint falls on top of me. Vere is strong waters? I see all from vindow. 'Make fire! Present! Ready!' Von cry, and then bang! sclatterbash! and dat is eggsingution. Vere is strong vaters?"

"Here, Lady Grumpsch, here." Lady Grumpsch took a deep draught of pump water handed to her by Lucy Kerr before she found out the harmless character of the liquid.

"Vat you mean, animal, as vas disgust? You should be eggsinguted."

"Lady Grumpsch! Lady Grumpsch!" exclaimed Agnes.

"What has happened? What does it all mean? I pray you tell me. For the love of Heaven I implore you to tell me. What has happened? and what does it mean?"

"I shall tell. It is relief. Von nich young man—von captain—he do somesing and be tried—what you call martial court. Guilty, dey say, and out dey have him. 'Ready! Fire! Present!' Sclatterbash! boom! bang! yah! he is gone! dead as—vat you call?—door-screw—-dead as door-screw. Yah!"

"A military execution?" exclaimed Agnes.

"Yah!"

"Here, in the palace?"

"Who was it?" asked Lucy. "Who could it be? Who was it?"

"Von capitaine, von capitaine. Let me tink. Vat vas his name? Capitaine vat you call daisy—vat you call grass of de field—vat you call somesing in von hedge. Let me tink. Ah! I have him. Vat you call veed—Capitaine Veed."

Something seemed to knock at the heart of Agnes.

"Woman!" she shrieked, and she flew at Lady Grumpsch and shook her to and fro. "Woman! do you mean to tell me that the name you wish to pronounce is Weed—the Christian name— and that any one has dared to hurt a single hair of the head of Captain Weed Markham?"

Lady Grumpsch was terrified, and as she was shaken to and fro in the grasp of the young girl, who at that moment seemed to possess preternatural power, she could only faintly articulate—

"Eggsingution! eggsingution!"

Tap, tap.

It was an appeal for admission at the door of the room, which Lucy sprang to in a moment.

One of the youngest of the queen's pages was there.

"What is it, Mr. Osborn? What do you want?"

"A gentleman wishes—"

"No, no! We can see no gentlemen. Away, away, Osborn! away! Yet stay. Like a good boy, now, tell me what has happened in the Colour Court. Has any one been shot? and who is it?"

"Permit me, Miss Kerr, to answer that question," said the Marquis of Chariton, as he advanced from the semi-darkness, some half-dozen paces behind the page. "Permit me to answer that question."

"You, marquis?"

"Yes, Miss Kerr. I asked Mr. Osborn, here, to be kind enough to announce me."

"Good Heavens! what has happened?"

"Hush! hush! Nothing. I have made what haste I could, and I hope no one has been here since the discharge of firearms, which you must bare heard, awakened every echo in the palace."

"Yes—Lady Grumpsch—and she says—"

"Confound her! I beg her pardon really; but she has surely not seen Agnes Bellair?"

"She has."

"This is most unfortunate. How ill news travels, to be sure! May I come in? for I have that to say which will turn tears to smiles, and at once transform the bitterest winter of the heart to radiant summer."

"Thrice welcome! Thrice welcome!" cried Lucy Kerr. "Come in! come in!"

She almost plucked him in by the sleeve of his uniform.

"The Marquis of Charlton," she announced, "who has something to report which shall not be despair. Look in his face, Agnes, look in his еуеs, and you will see."

The marquis cast a glance upon Lady Grumpsch, and another upon Agnes.

It needed no question to see that the dreadful tidings had been told. The stony look of Agnes, the ghastly face, the clenched hands, the very lips blanched and rigid.

In good truth, the remedy for this shock of the very soul must needs be quick, and yet he dared not utter it, for Lady Grumpsch was there, and in five minutes the whole of St. James's would have known what he had come to any, and all would have been lost.

The mistress of the maids, however, herself spared all trouble on the subject by springing to her feet and making for the door.

"I shall report von large scandal. I shall tell her gracious Majesty ladies is visited in middle of nights by officers of guards. I shall report von grand scandal. No von is safe—no von."

Lady Grumpsch sailed from the room in high indignation, the greater part of which was due probably to the fact that no strong "vaters" were to be obtained in that portion of the palace.

The Marquis of Charlton at once stepped up to Agnes, and, placing one hand lightly on her arm, he spoke in low gentle tones—

"This would be a great intrusion but for the news I bring. Captain Weed Markham is perfectly safe and unhurt."

He had just time to catch Agnes as she fainted.

And now the water that Lady Grumpsch had so despised was eminently useful, and Agnes soon opened her eyes again.

A flood of tears then relieved her of much of the load that was pressing on her heart.

The young marquis was still in the room, and she looked at him imploringly.

"I will tell you," said Lucy Kerr; and her brave spirit was shaken with emotion, which betrayed itself in her voice as she spoke.

"I will tell you, Agnes. By some means, and for some reasons best Known to the king himself, as the marquis has just informed me. Captain Markham was hastily tried by a court-martial, and condemned to death. The discharge of firearms we heard must have been his destruction—his murder—but that the marquis took the command of the firing party, and saw that what they call blank cartridge—that is to say, without bullets—were served out to the soldiers; and he did this, Agnes, because he knew that—that—"

Lucy Kerr paced the room twice before she could utter another word. Then, facing Agnes again, and quite unconsciously holding the marquis's arm with both her hands, she added—

"Because, Agnes, he knew from me that Captain Weed Markham was his rival."


CHAPTER XXXIX.

GRATEFUL TEARS.

After uttering these words Lucy Kerr went and sat down by herself, and rested her head upon her hands after the manner of one who had done all that was required, and was wanted no more.

And Agnes rose, and, with the same unconscious ness of what she was about that had characterised the action of Lucy Kerr when she had held the aim of the Marquis of Charlton, she placed both her hands upon the young officer's breast, and, while the tears streamed from her eyes, she said—

"You did this, and I sent to say that I could not love you!"

He did no£ answer, but there was a glow upon his face and a sparkle in his eyes which betrayed the emotion which had possession of his heart.

"You were capable of doing this, and I was insensible to the affection of such a soul!"

"Hush!" cried Lucy, She suddenly sprang to her feet.

How white she was!

"Hush! Agnes Bellair. the Marquis of Charlton has something else to say."

"Heaven forgive me!" exclaimed the marquis.

"Yes, indeed I have. We can trust each other, we three, but we can trust no one else. Captain Markham either has felt his danger, and had had the nerve to lie still, simulating death, in the courtyard below, or, being of a highly nervous temperament, the shock of believing himself fired at really and truly, with an intent to kill him, has stunned his faculties for a time."

"What is to be done?" asked Lucy.

"He must be saved. He must be removed at once."

"Most certainly," added Lucy. "If it be not so the work is but half done, and in this emergency I call upon you both, not in your capacity of young ladies and maids of honour to the queen, but as human creatures, with human feelings and human hearts, to assist me in rescuing the apparently dead, but I believe perfectly uninjured, Captain Markham from the courtyard, and well as that young girl who at the last moment if his execution had been in reality, must have shared his fate."

"Young girl?" exclaimed Agnes.

"Young girl?" echoed Lucy.

"Yes. Almost at the instant that the word 'Fire!' was being uttered she sprang forward and cast her arms about him, evidently resolved to die with him, as, in fact, she has been saved with him."

Lucy and Agnes looked at each other with wonder in their eyes.

"At once," added the marquis. "Let me implore you to come at once. There may not be a moment to be lost. I will take charge of Markham, while the young girl who lies with him will be your care."

"Yes," cried Lucy. "At once! at once! Here, Agnes, here is your cloak! Quick! quick! We can run along the picture gallery, and through the small armoury. I have the key of No. 7 door."

"At once," said Agnes, "at once. A young girl with him. This is very strange."

This was the little party, then, that in five minutes more emerged amid the rain into the Colour Court of St. James's, and in so mysterious a manner lifted up Bertha and Captain Markham, and conveyed them into the palace.

"You can stand? You are not hurt?" whispered Charlton to Markham.

"I should be killed."

"Pho! pho! Blank cartridge."

"Ah! was that the tardy mercy?"

"Not at all. Your execution was intended, but a friend, of whom you know little, managed to keep back the bullets. Come this way. I think, for a short time, you must consent to be a prisoner in my chamber, till I see how the land lies for your escape."

"It must be a dream."

"No, no, my friend; it is a reality."

"You are the Marquis of Charlton, and it is to you I am indebted for—"

"Say no more, say no more. Follow me, and quickly, for you are in danger in the very air of St. James's."

"No, no. One moment. If it be not all a dream, some part of it is. Bertha, Bertha, where is she?"

"If you mean that young girl who at the last moment would have shared your fate, I can assure you that she is perfectly safe, and in good hands."

"No, marquis, no. There are no good hands for her. If the air of St. James's is dangerous to me, it if doubly, trebly so to her. My danger is but the reflection of hers. Marquis, I implore you to let me rejoin her, and remove her from this place. How she came here I know not, but I suppose she followed me."

"It is clear," said the marquis, "that she would have died for you, or with you."

"Dear, dear Bertha!"

"You love her?"

"She is but a child."

The marquis shook his head.

"Such a child as another summer will enable to cast off such a name. Do you love her, Captain Weed Markham?"

"With all my heart. Can I be insensible to such devotion? It is not for me to waste perchance a life in the pursuit of an ideal affection, which may never be my own, while around me clings the reality of such a love as hers. I must sec her. I must see her. I must see her."

"I pray you be content, and remember one thing, that those who have saved your life, and the life of this Bertha whom you love, risked their own by doing so,

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and therefore should be allowed to dictate your actions for a little space."

"I submit, I submit, in humbleness and thankfulness. You tell me she is safe, and I feel that not a word can come from your lips untinctured by truth and honour."

"Confide in me, Captain Markham; and if a grateful feeling lives in your heart for this service, that accident has put it in my power to do for you, I shall ask but one recompense."

"It is yours, marquis, without the asking. My life is yours."

"Not so. The recompense I ask of you is this, that at such time and place as I may please to appoint you will repeat what you have said to me of your love for this young girl, and your appreciation of her self-sacrifice for your sake."

"I will do so, as Heaven is my judge."

"Farewell, then, for the present. Lock yourself in this chamber, and let no one enter but myself. I will make my presence known by three knocks, thus."

"I will be careful. Farewell. Farewell. But as I know of Bertha's safety, I pray you see that she knows of mine."

"Of that be assured."

We must leave Captain Markham to his own reflections, while we follow the Marquis of Charlton to the guard-room of the palace. There was a gloomy look upon the faces of the soldiers on duty, and the tone of the noncommissioned officer who spoke to the marquis was hard and constrained, although perfectly respectful.

"We wait your orders, colonel, about the disposal of the dead body in the courtyard. We thought you would like to see to that yourself, colonel, as it would be satisfactory to you, after commanding the firing party against a brother officer."

The marquis fully understood the scarcely concealed bitterness of this speech, but it would not do to take the sergeant into his confidence, and he merely bowed his head, as many of us are forced to do in this world against injustice and detraction.

"You need not trouble yourself, sergeant. The body is disposed of."

"Thanks, colonel. Mr. Ogilvie has been inquiring for you, sir."

"Where is he?"

"In the officers' guard-room, colonel."

"I will go to him."

On the Marquis of Charlton entering the small guard room appropriated to the use of the officers on duty at the palace he found the young subaltern sitting moodily at a table, with his sword lying before him on it.

"You asked for me, Mr. Ogilvie."

The subaltern sprang to his feet.

"Yes, colonel, I did ask for you. I can't get at the general, for he has locked himself in his room; but you will do for me very well."

"What is it, Ogilvie?"

"You led me to suppose, colonel—that is, I thought you led me to suppose—that you were going to do something, and likewise to tell me what that something was, to save that unhappy man Captain Weed Markham. But you never said a word to me, and now the execution is over."

"Hush! hush!"

"I will not hush, colonel, and I tell you this affair will haunt me to my dying day. I resign the service. To-morrow I throw up my commission, and to-night, in your presence, I break my sword."

"No, Ogilvie, you will merely put me to the expense of providing you with another. Since the sentence of the court-martial I have been so pressed upon and watched that I had no time to say a word to you. All I could do was to take care that there were no bullets in the cartridges used against Captain Markham."

"What?"

"I said no bullets," smiled the marquis. "And I may add that he is as safe and unhurt as you are."

"Oh! forgive me!"

"Tut! tut! I should have found it hard to forgive in my own mind a young man who had been destitute of that feeling of justice and humanity so necessary for the making of the true soldier."

"Oh! marquis, a thousand thanks. What a weight you have lifted off me! But I shall never like a service that calls upon us for such affairs as this. I shall leave it, marquis, and perhaps turn Jacobite."

"Hush! Ogilvie, hush! They say walls have ears, and if that be true of any walls, it is certainly those of palaces."

"True, most true."

"What is that sound we hear overhead, Ogilvie?"

"Oh! it's the general, and serve him right. He has shut himself in, and does nothing but pace to and fro like some caged animal. Only listen to him. He takes six steps in one direction and six in another, and while I have been here a strange fancy has taken possession of me that he was spelling the word 'murder' with his footsteps as he went to and fro—M—U—R—D—E—R. Don't you hear him?"

"I do, indeed. I will go and see him, on the pretence of reporting to him the execution."

The young marquis strode up the staircase and rapped at the general's door.

"Who is there?" shouted the general hoarsely.

"It is I—the Marquis of Charlton."

"Oh! that is well. You can tell my daughter Agnes, and likewise my son, that it is my wish they appeal to you for advice and assistance when I am gone."

"Gone, general? What mean you?"

"The meaning of gone means to go. Farewell, marquis. I wish you well with all my heart."

"Open the door, Sir Thomas."

"No, no, no."

"Very well."

The young marquis retreated a pace or two, and then, making a rush at the door with all his weight and strength, he dashed it from its hinges, entering the apartment just in time to snatch from the frantic hand of General Bellair a pistol, which he was holding at his own head with an intention that could not be mistaken.

"Unhand me, Charlton. I cannot, will not live. I have been mad—stark staring mud—and that brutal king has played upon my weakness. This is an act of expiation, Charlton."

"No, no."

"It is—it must be. Unhand me, I say, unhand me! I am a murderer—red-handed. The blood of that murdered man cries aloud for vengeance. He summons me before the judgment-seat of Heaven, and I must go to meet him."

"Hush! general, hush! There is a Providence that shapes our ends and interposes even between us and our wildest passions. Captain Markham lives!"

"Lives?"

"I have said it."

"But wounded to the death."

"No. Untouched—unscathed. I saved him. And now, General Sir Thomas Bellair, will you denounce me?"

"Denounce you, marquis? Denounce you? Have you not saved me from myself? Denounce you? Oh! marquis! marquis!"

The general fell upon his breast, and, for the first time, perhaps, in all his life, real, contrite, grateful tears fell from the eyes of that worldly seeking man.

"Oh! marquis, marquis! you are a man of many many thousand. Will you take my child and love and cherish her? Tell me that you will—oh! tell me that you will."

"I think so now," said the marquis very gently.

(To be continued in our next.)

Published @ COVE

August 2021