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 LII.

NORRIS CONCLUDES HIS ROYAL SERVICE.

Two figures wrapped in cloaks passed through the Horse Guards, and took their way across the park towards St. James's Palace, just as some rain began to fall again.

They were Norris and the king.

The valet kept at a cautious distance from his imperious master, for, notwithstanding the very full and precise information which Norris had been able to impart to the king, disappointment and disaster had dogged the royal footsteps, and that night seemed to be passing away without any satisfactory results.

That rage was in the king's breast was sufficiently manifest by the manner in which he tugged at the cloak he wore, and now and then stamped on the soddened gravel of the park.

Whenever any of these exhibitions of extraordinary passion took place Norris was careful to increase his distance from the king.

Then, as the royal progress assumed a more placid character, he would gradually creep up closer to him.

In this manner they reached the dull wall which bounded the garden of Marlborough House.

The king then turned abruptly, and Norris gave a start, for he fully expected some ebullition of rage.

To his great astonishment, the manner of the king was mild and full of suavity.

"Norris. Our good Norris."

"Gracious sir?"

"You have done your utmost. You have tried to serve us."

"Oh! your Majesty, I—"

"We know, we know. We consider that to try to serve us is to serve us. The intent, Norris, is sufficient, and we shall soon dispense with your services for to-night."

"I am never fatigued in your Majesty's service."

"Tash! man, tash! There is such a thing as spurring the willing horse too much."

"Not in my case, your Majesty. It is only too much happiness and too much honour to be able to serve your Majesty night and day."

"Well, well, good Norris, well, well, we must all rest. Our nerves may be of iron, and our constitutions of brass, but we require rest, Norris."

"I have still strength and wakefulness sufficient to serve your gracious Majesty."

"Ah!"

"And even for the remainder of the night—"

The king interrupted him with an impatient gesture of his arm.

"The night is passing away, Norris, and already we fancy we see a dim twilight like dawn in the eastern sky. Norris."

"Your Majesty?"

"What does the preacher say—that Bishop Ashburnham, who composes the prayers for the queen? Ugh! ugh! ugh! Does he not say we are here to-night and gone to-morrow? Ugh! ugh! ugh!"

The king drew his cloak closer around him.

He crossed the Ambassadors' Court.

He tapped at a small door, and was admitted by a confidential page into St. James's.

Norris followed him with a strange creeping fear at his heart.

What did the king mean by saying, "we are here to-night and gone to-morrow?

Were those words prophetic?

And if so, did he apply them to himself?

When he said "we" did he mean to use the royal plural, or did he include him, Norris?

The valet felt faint and poorly.

And yet where was the danger?

Had he not while the king slept adroitly changed the lozenges from one waistcoat pocket to another?

The poisoned ones occupied the place of those that were wholesome—the wholesome ones that of those that were poisoned.

There could be no mistake about it. And yet what could the king mean by the strange words he had uttered?

Was there one explanation of them?

Yes, there was one. That explanation, as it suggested itself to Norris, brought a cold perspiration on his brow and made his knees tremble.

Might not the king already have partaken of one of his own poisoned lozenges?

Might not ‘the shadow of death’ be already hovering about him?

That was a possible explanation of his strange words.

It was indeed a highly probable one.

And so Norris strained his eyes to watch the figure of the king as he followed him the whole length of one of the galleries of St. James's Palace.

Was there any more than usual unsteadiness in his gait?

That was difficult to detect, for the royal mode of progression was generally of a weak vacillating shambling character.

Yes, Norris thought there was a something more than usual—a kind of rolling from side to side—an odd movement of the shoulders.

Singular sounds, too, half-suppressed, came from the royal lips.

Was the king laughing—chuckling?

The idea alarmed Norris excessively.

He could not feel quite sure about it, however, for the movements and the strange noises might possibly be the first indications of physical discomfiture from one of the poisoned lozenges.

So Norris followed his master—followed him through the various ante-chambers, just stepping up in his usual adroit manner to push open any door that might impede the royal progress, and then bowing low as the king passed through it—followed him right into his bedchamber—that bedchamber from which Norris had already abstracted a brilliant fortune in the jewels he had concealed about his person.

The king sank into a chair with an exhausted look.

He was really tired.

There was an indomitable energy about that frail frame, but still the fatigues of that day and night were


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beginning to tell upon it, and there was an exhausted cadaverous look upon the face of the Majesty of England.

"We have failed, Norris."

"I will hope not, your gracious Majesty. The fugitives who are amenable to your Majesty's justice may still be discovered."

"No, Norris, no. Mine is a house divided against itself. When the queen sides with traitors the king may well be baffled."

"Alas! alas!"

"Tash! man, tash! There is no occasion to cry 'Alas!' They have escaped, that's all."

"Nay, your Majesty. If I may obtrude my humble opinion, I should imagine they are still hiding in old Whitehall."

"Then there is but one way of discovering them."

"One way, your Majesty?"

"Yes, there is one way."

"Your Majesty is so full of wisdom and of expedients that no doubt there is one way, which your Majesty alone has discovered."

The king seemed now rather to be speaking to himself than to Norris as he muttered—

"A military cordon round the entire building."

Norris projected his head forward like a magpie in search of a beetle, and listened intently.

"Yes, a military cordon around the entire building, so that no one can escape, and then—"

Norris projected his head still further.

"And then set light to it."

"Ugh!"

"Admirable!" cried Norris. "Admirable! If your Majesty's enemies will hide themselves, and if your Majesty's enemies will not come out of their hiding-places when your Majesty wants them, why then your Majesty has a perfect right to roast them where they are, as a proper reward for their obstinacy."

"It might do," still muttered the king. "We don't want Whitehall. It is an old place, full of old and disagreeable reminiscences to kings. We don't want it. It may as well burn. We must think—think."

"It is an admirable idea, your Majesty, and in accordance—with—"

"With what?" cried the king sharply. "With your Majesty's well-known clemency and mercy to all your Majesty's subjects."

"Tash!"

The king stood up and held his arms in a peculiar attitude, which Norris, from long practice, understood to mean that he was to help him off with his coat.

Reverently, and as though he were touching some extremely sacred idol, Norris performed this office.

That was the full extent of his ministrations as regarded the king before the royal repose.

It was his next duty to bring a silk quilted dressing-gown, which he helped the king to put on, after which he was usually dismissed.

His Majesty then, by a little romance of the palace, was supposed to be at prayers for some time, after which, without further attendance, he would retire to rest.

And so Norris, as usual, helped him on with the dressing-gown, and then retired backward three paces and bowed low.

He was usually then dismissed by a wave of the hand.

But the gesture did not come on this occasion.

The king sat down again and looked at the valet.

"Norris."

"Your gracious Majesty?"

"We do not fool very well. A strange sensation—"

Norris almost gave a jump.

He felt almost certain now that the king had partaken of one of the poisoned lozenges, and that it was doing battle with the royal constitution.

The king touched his head, and then his chest.

"A strange sensation, Norris, here, and here: and our thoughts, too, seem to wander back to many things and events of the past which we have long forgotten."

Norris advanced a step.

"We are weak, too, Norris, we are weak."

The king affected to attempt to rise from the chair, but to find the effort too much for him.

Norris advanced another step.

"It is very strange, Norris, very strange."

"Is your Majesty no better?"

"No, Norris, no. Why—why, our good Norris, if we should cease to be a king this night, what will become of you?"

"Of me, your Majesty?"

"Yes. How often you have said it would be impossible for you to survive so good a master!"

"We are all in the hands of Providence, your Majesty."

"Yes, yes, that is true; but we intended to reward your loving and faithful services. We intended to bestow upon you, our good Norris, such a reward as would entirely satisfy our own feelings, and yours too, for you would never ask for anything further—never—never."

"Your Majesty is too good."

"No, no, no."

"Does your Majesty feel fainter r?"

"Yes, fainter."

"Might the humblest of your Majesty's subjects advise that you take something?"

"What?"

"One of your Majesty's restorative lozenges."

"Ah! yes. We had forgotten them."

The king plunged both his hands into his waistcoat pockets. Norris breathed hard, and kept his eyes upon every movement of the king. He had not the remotest suspicion that his royal master was playing a part, and that they represented a cat and a mouse, he (Norris) being unquestionably the mouse. The king held a lozenge between the finger and thumb of each hand. He affected a wonderful half-suppressed chuckle.

"Our dear Norris, if there should be what the constitution of this realm calls 'a demise of the crown' you would die of grief or indigestion. It may do you good to take a lozenge."

"I will take one with pleasure, if your Majesty—"

"To be sure, man. Ugh! ugh! ugh! There."

The king put one of the lozenges into his mouth.

Norris felt quite safe. He would have staked his life at that instant upon the fact that there had been no change, no jugglery, with regard to the lozenges, and that it was a perfectly innocent one which he now received and commenced sucking, while that which the king was partaking of he could have sworn (to use a figure of speech, for Norris's oath would not have counted for much), was poisoned.

And what a great thing it was, assuming that the king had already partaken of one lozenge and felt in disposed in consequence, to get him to take a second!

Surely that would do the business.

If he felt something wrong at his head and something wrung at his chest before, what would he fool now?

Ha! ha! what would he feel now?

Norris stepped up closer to him.

The king's face seemed to lengthen. His mouth opened to a strange vacant kind of oval.

Norris actually laughed.

He lost his reverence for monarchy.

He was no longer the humble subject—no longer the worm.

He actually laughed aloud, and clapped his hands together in a sharp and uncourtly manner within an inch of the royal nose.

"Ha! ha! Ha! ha!"

The king spoke faintly.

"Our—good—Norris."

"Tash!" cried Morris, with startling vehemence, close to the royal ear.

"We—"we feel—"

"Of course you do. Bah! bo!"

"We—we think—that if—if—if one of our royal phy—physicians—"

"No you won't. He might think of some infernal antidote or another. You'll just sit still and die, you bloodthirsty old ruffian."

Norris brought a chair, and set it down with a bang immediately in front of the king, and then, seating himself upon it, with his knees touching those of his royal master, he wagged his head to and fro and seemed intensely to enjoy the situation.

"You old regal ruffian! You cruel ungrateful evil-minded old beast!"

"Oh! oh! oh!"

"That's right! that's music! How do you feel now? Ha! ha!"

"Ill, Norris, ill—ill— ill. Fetch a phys—"

"Certainly not. Ha! ha! Ha! ha! You'll be found here dead in the morning, and while you've sense enough to understand me, you old wretch, I'll tell you how I did it. Ha! ha! You shall hear—you shall bear and know how I did it. With all your cunning, and with all your devilish ingenuity, I—I, Norris—have been one too many for you. Humble! Did I call myself humble? I never was humble. I despised you. Did I call myself a worm? I hated you. Listen! Shake up! Listen! Did you hear me?"

"We—we—we hear."

"Well, I changed the lozenges. I changed them from one pocket to the other."

"Oh!"

"Why don't you cry 'Tash?' How do you feel now? I changed them, I tell you — the harmless for the poisonous, the poisonous for the harmless. Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!"

Norris had been wagging his head at a great rate in such close proximity to the king's face that it must have been particularly insulting and offensive. But now he suddenly leant back in the chair, on which he was sitting, and placed his hand upon his brow.

"Tash!" said the king faintly. "Oh! you can say—say 'Tash!' can you? Can you?"

"Yes. We—we, our good Norris—we—we—"

"We what? It is strange, I do not feel very well."

"No, because we changed the lozenges back again!"

Norris uttered a yell.

The king echoed it, and flew at his throat in a moment. Over went Norris, chair and all, the king having the greatest difficulty to save himself from the general wreck.

"Murder! murder! mur—mur—"

Norris rolled on his back.

Further speech was denied him.

A sharp convulsion shook his frame, a slight froth was upon his lips, and then, with a strange half-stilled scream, the guilty spirit of the valet fled for ever.

The king rung a handbell violently, and he kept on ringing it until there camo a rush of pages and yeomen of the guard into the apartment.

"Remove that carrion," he said. "By searching him you will find some of our royal jewels upon his person. Bring them back; but now, at once, remove that carrion. Ugh! ugh! Ugh! ugh! ugh!"


CHAPTER LIII.

MILITARY DISCIPLINE.

The aspect of affairs at the old palace of Whitehall was anything but encouraging for those persons in whose fortunes we are so greatly interested, and who had temporarily escaped, by so rare a chance, from the imminent danger which had beset them.

The secret apartment in Whitehall, with its ghastly previous tenant, was anything but a desirable place in which to remain.

And yet how to leave it seemed to be a proposition of the most difficult character to answer.

To be sure, it might have been comparatively easy for the Marquis of Charlton and Captain Markham, or either of them, to suddenly sally out and take the life of the sentinel, who was beguiling the tedium of his watch by whistling an air as he paced to and fro in that huge gloomy picture gallery.

But that was a course of proceeding to which neither of them could make up their minds.

And yet something must be done.

In open and fair fight they would have been as aggressive as was needful or necessary.

But, at the same time, although very chivalric, it would have been at once absurd and dangerous for either of them to go out and challenge his attention, in order that he might put himself upon his guard and kill or be killed in a regular manner.

Moreover, they, as officers, knew that it was the duty of a sentinel to give an alarm rather than to fight.

They were quite sure that upon the first indication of danger the trooper would fire his carbine.

They felt equally sure, too, that in that case an overwhelming force would in a few seconds make its appearance in the gallery.

What, then, was to be done?

It was evident that Bertha was looking with painful and intense emotion at that terrible and ghastly remnant of humanity seated at the table.

Moreover, the night was passing away, and that dim grey appearance in the eastern sky which the king had noticed from the park would soon actually be but too evident, and render escape doubly difficult and doubly hazardous.

Markham and the Marquis of Charlton conversed in low tones.

"What do you advise, Markham?"

"I scarcely know what to say."

"I suppose we may conclude there is no other outlet from this chamber than that by which we have entered it?"

"I think that conclusion is pretty evident, but we will ask the question."

Markham whispered to Bertha's father—

"Can we possibly leave this room, sir, in any way but by the secret panel through which we came to it?"

"No. There is no other exit—at least, none that I have discovered."

"Then, sir, I fear we are in great jeopardy."

"Surely, surely there is but one sentinel in the gallery?"

"Yes, we could kill him," replied Markham; "but we shrink from such an act."

Bertha stretched out her hand and grasped Markham's.

The action spoke more than many words could have uttered.

The Mystery in Scarlet saw this mute approval of the sentiment to which the young officer had given utterance.

"Do not suppose for a moment," he whispered, "that I would counsel any such act."

"No, father," said Bertha, "I am sure you would not."

Markham then bent down to Bertha as he said—

"I think we are in safety so long as we remain here."

"Yes, oh! yes."

She glanced, with a shudder, towards the chair on which sat the dim and dusky figure of the long since dead headsman as she spoke.

"Ah! yes, dear Bertha, I can feel how terrible it is for you to remain in such companionship."

"It is terrible, Markham."

"And yet I see no resource. It seems a question of endurance and perseverance, and resolves itself to how long will our enemies keep watch? or how long can we remain here to battle them?"

"Let me think," said Bertha. "Surely there is some way."

Markham shook his head.


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But for the fact that the soldier without trod heavily, and that his spurs clanked upon the oaken flooring, and that he still whistled, to beguile the loneliness of his watch, it would scarcely seem safe even to converse in the low whispers which the fugitives used.

Suddenly then Bertha grasped the arm of Markham and spoke more hurriedly.

"I can perceive," she said, "that the Marquis of Charlton is in full uniform, according to his rank in the army, and, since he has come only from St. James's Palace, his regimentals are not so smirched and soiled as yours are, Markham, by the many adventures you have gone through."

"That is true enough, Bertha."

"Moreover, Markham, you are known probably to the soldiers as being under arrest and sought for, while the marquis's name may never have been mentioned."

"What may all this lead to, Bertha?"

"I have an idea, Markham. You may call it an extravagant one, and there may be some danger in it."

"That we shall not shrink from."

"No, I know you will not; but if it be that the Marquis of Charlton is not implicated in this search his appearance in Whitehall as a well-known officer of rank might carry with it military authority."

"Ah! I see."

"Then, Markham, you understand; but do not let him rush into peril for my sake, since I will strive to endure— and what is there that I cannot endure for your sake, Markham?"

"It is a happy thought, Bertha, and may save us yet. Charlton! Charlton!"

The marquis stepped up to them, and Markham explained to him Bertha's idea, all the risks and all the chances of which he saw in a moment.

There was no hesitation, however, in his mind upon the subject.

"If my name has not been compromised already," he said, "in this search, my military authority must be paramount, since it is not at all probable any officer of my rank is present in the building."

"You will try it, then, Charlton?"

"Indeed will I."

"But be careful."

"That I will, for all our sakes. I must consider the best means of getting into the gallery."

The marquis considered for some few moments, and he spoke again in whispered tones.

"Yes. There will be no other way. I might fully succeed by stepping boldly out and facing the sentinel, and quietly closing the secret panel behind me, as though that were the way in which I chose to enter the gallery; but if his orders go to the length of arresting me such a step might compromise us all."

"How will you act, then?"

"We can hear that he walks some distance on his post to and fro, and by a little dexterity I think I may emerge into the gallery while his back is towards the panel. He will not know then how I entered it, and I can call to him or meet him face to face."

It was quite evident to the mind of Markham, as well as to that of the Marquis of Charlton, that, taking everything into consideration, this was the safest course to pursue.

There was no hesitation whatever on the part of the marquis, and he now stood close to the revolving panel listening to the footsteps of the sentinel and waiting the most fayourable moment for action.

There was a perfectly prominent handle on the side of the panel nearest to the secret apartment, for no disguise was there attempted of the only mode of egress —that is to say, the only mode with which the little party there assembled was acquainted.

With his hand upon this handle, the Marquis of Charlton listened intently to the slow measured tread of the sentinel without.

He let the soldier take two or three turns, in order that he might thoroughly accustom his ears to the different gradations of sound before he moved.

Catching the moment, then, when the sentinel's march was within two or three paces of its furthest distance, the marquis drew the panel sharply open and stepped out into the gallery.

This movement was not effected without some noise, nor did the marquis affect finesse in the matter, for rapidity and boldness of action were the only elements of success in what he was about to encounter.

The sentinel turned abruptly, but the marquis was free of the panel, and had closed it again.

The light in the gallery was very dim, since it only arose from a lantern which the soldiers had placed on the pedestal of a statue.

The sentinel challenged at once, and brought his carbine to the "present."

"Who goes there? Stand! or I fire."

"Guard," cried the marquis, as he advanced, without a moment's hesitation, "guard, recover arms."

The command was given in so unhesitating a tone of voice, and the light, dim as it was, so unmistakably showed it was an officer who uttered the words, that the sentinel flung his carbine back upon his arm at once, and stood at "attention."

"There is no longer any occasion," said the marquis, "to hold this post. Where is your sergeant? or have you a commissioned officer on duty here?"

"It's only a sergeant's party, colonel," replied the soldier.

"Very well. You must summon your sergeant, and I will order him to collect and bring in the sentinels."

"Yes, colonel."

The manoeuvre was perfectly successful, so far as regarded this sentinel, and he left the gallery at once to seek his sergeant.

Of course the orders from a superior officer did anything and everything.

The sergeant soon appeared, accompanied by a couple of troopers, and looking a little suspicious.

"Halt!" cried the marquis. The little party obeyed mechanically.

The sergeant then ceremoniously saluted the Marquis of Charlton.

"I know your honour very well," he said, "but I was afraid for the moment that the sentinel on duty here had made a fool of himself, since one of the persons whom we are placed here to arrest is an officer of the guard."

"You are quite right, sergeant; but, as it does not happen to be me, you will take your orders."

"Yes, colonel. I presume they are in the name of the king?"

"Certainly. Every officer of his Majesty gives every order, however minute, in the name of the king."

The sergeant thought it necessary to "salute" again at these words, for they sounded very imposing indeed.

"You will collect all the sentinels," added the marquis, "both outside and in this building, and report yourself to the adjutant on duty at the Horse Guards."

A third time the sergeant saluted.

"Right about face! March!"

A few moments more, and the Marquis of Charlton was alone in the picture gallery of old Whitehall.

He paced slowly to and fro, never even casting an eye upon the panel which contained the portrait of the first Charles, for he had no means of feeling perfectly sure that the whole proceeding was not watched by some scrutinising eye.

As minute after minute, however, passed away, and all remained profoundly still, the marquis became reassured as to the success of the stratagem, which no doubt by that time had cleared Whitehall of its unwelcome intruders.

He opened a door at the farther end of the gallery and listened intently.

There was not a sound throughout the whole extent of the vast building.

It was tolerably clear, therefore, that the sergeant's guard of the king's Light Horse had obeyed the order given them, and duly departed for their quarters at the Horse Guards.

The time for action had come.

If escape were to be achieved, the next hour must see the fugitives well on their way, for the dawn was very rapidly approaching.


CHAPTER LIV.

CONCLUSION.

The Marquis of Charlton struck heavily upon the panelled picture, in the way he had seen the Mystery in Scarlet do when introducing the little party to the secret chamber.

The panel yielded at once.

The same harsh grating sound that before had very nearly proved a discovery of their place of seclusion echoed through the dismal gallery.

But there were now no ears to listen to those sounds that were at all inimical to the chances of escape.

"Now," cried the marquis, "now is the time.

All seems to be well; but which of us shall say how long such a condition will last?"

Bertha hesitated for a moment, and then, with the instinct of duty even before her best affections, it was her father she clung to.

Another moment, and they were all in the gallery.

The marquis then turned to Dick Martin, the drummer, and, placing his hand in a friendly manner on the boy's shoulder, he said—

"Make your way to the back of Whitehall as quick as you can, my boy, and see if all is clear down by the river. I think that will be the last service we shall want of you to-night."

Dick Martin "saluted" with military exactitude, and then hastened on his errand.

About five minutes elapsed before the boy returned.

"All is clear, colonel. There is not a soul about, and the rain has even scattered the watermen, for I could not see one in charge of the wherries."

"Then in good truth our time has come."

"Yes," replied Markham, "our time, but not yours, marquis. There can be no reason for you becoming a fugitive."

"None whatever," added Bertha, "and I do not think we ought any further to hazard your safety or compromise your good name."

"I must, at all events," replied the marquis, "see you safely embarked. You are well aware, both of you, that duty and affection chain me to England. I do not think that Agnes, Miss Kerr, and I are in any danger, for we may be well assured that the queen will keep our secret inviolate."

It may be remarked here that the Marquis of Charlton could have no knowledge of the treacherous and insidious conduct of Norris the valet.

He, as well as Markham, considered the attack upon Whitehall as only another effort upon the part of the king to get possession of Bertha.

Dick Martin had found a ready passage to the back of the building, and he now led the way, as light of foot as he was light of heart.

"You will be very happy," whispered Bertha to the Marquis of Charlton, "very happy, as you deserve to be, and who shall say but in some future time we may all meet again?"

She held out her hand to the marquis as she spoke, who pressed it in silence, for he was very anxious to see them out of the precincts of Whitehall, and could scarcely control the agitation that possessed him.

Out into a long neglected garden, covered with weeds and rank growth of every description—down a narrow paved causeway, upon which moss and creeping plants luxuriated in thick profusion—then making their way with some trouble through an undergrowth of bushes between some trees—and then, with the cold air of the river blowing upon them, and the black turbid stream heaving in the night light, they stood at the top of a flight of stone steps, which had in distant times formed a handsome river entrance to the old palace.

In those steps, so as to suit various altitudes of the tide, there were powerful hooks and rings, for the convenience of the numerous boats and barges which used there to take up and set down illustrious personages.

But many years had passed away since those steps had been trodden by the footsteps of the gay and the gallant.

Not within the memory of living man had finely-bedizened boats and barges, with silken canopies and fluttering pennons, thronged that once courtly spot. 

The genius of neglect and desolation had taken possession of it, and the glory of the water-gate of Whitehall had departed for ever.

It was only late at night, when all chance of passengers or traffic on the river had passed away until the next day, that any wherries were moored at that spot.

But at this dim hour of the night there were some eight or ten gently heaving to and fro on the languid tide.

The fact was that the place was considered safe and inaccessible; so those watermen who did not make an apprentice sleep in their boats at night, as was but too generally the custom, would moor their wherries at these old marble steps, and repair to their various homes in the purlieus of Westminster or Lambeth to rest in perfect security.

There was by no means the assortment of twinkling lights upon the Thames which now may be observed all the night through.

On the contrary, you might look right and left for a good half-mile, and scarcely see above two or three pale reflections of some miserable oil lamp at a wharf or jetty.

But that dawn which the fugitives had to dread so much was slowly and surely coming.

"It is your only and your best chance," whispered the Marquis of Charlton to Markham. "The tide is evidently on the turn, and will be soon running strongly down the river. You must take one of these wherries, and row with a stout heart and a strong will."

"Neither shall be wanting," replied Markham. "It is difficult to say how far you may have to go, but, if report speaks true, there are always Dutch galliots plying high up in the stream, on pretence of fishing, out really for the purpose of taking off Jacobite fugitives."

"I shall hardly be able to convince them," said Markham, "that I come under that description."

"Well, I can give you some information on that head. There has been, as you know, a special commission sitting for some time to try some real or pretended Jacobite plotters, and a nobleman, a friend of mine, who is a member of that commission, told me their watchwords."

"A most valuable piece of information, marquis."

"It is just this: —When you run aside any vessel that you think answers your purpose you are to call out, 'There is a King of England."

"Is that all?"

"Not quite. If they merely stare stupidly at you, and seem not to understand you, you must just go on and try your fortune elsewhere, but if the reply is, 'Where is he?' you have to answer, 'Not at St. James's,' and then you will be taken on board, and if you have money to pay handsomely the Dutch, Flemish, or French captain, as the case may be, they will take you to any port you like."

"A thousand thanks, marquis. Let me echo Bertha's hope that we may meet again in happier times."

There was no difficulty in securing one of the wherries, and, with great care and tenderness, Markham seated both Bertha and her father in it.

The latter bent his head down and clasped his hands over his face.

He seemed to feel that all his dreams of greatness

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and aggrandizement were now over, since he was leaving England for ever, and he could not do so without a pang of intense bitterness.

Markham and the young marquis shook hands cordially, after the manner of Englishmen. Had they been foreigners there would have been great embracings.

Then the marquis turned to Dick Martin.

"Be off with you, my lad," he said, "and get to your barracks as quickly as you can. You have done well and bravely, and I shall not forget you."

Dick Martin coughed as he saluted the marquis.

"If you please, colonel, I think of taking my discharge."

"Your discharge, Dick?"

"Yes, colonel."

"But—but—"

"Beg pardon, colonel, but when officers are brought out into the Colour Court to be shot all for nothing, it will be the turn of drummers next; so I think, colonel, I shall leave the army."

"It is desertion, Dick."

"Nobody will know it, sir. I shall go with Captain Markham, if he will let me, and there is no one on shore who will point out the route that poor Dick Martin the drummer has taken."

"No one," replied the marquis. "I do not see you."

Dimly Markham could just see the boy holding out his arms towards the boat, but there was no difficulty in understanding the action.

"With pleasure, Dick," he cried. "Leap!"

Another moment, and the wherry was unmoored and shot out into the darkness.

"Heaven protect them!" said the Marquis of Charlton. "I can do no more."

The tide was fairly on the turn, and the boat only required to be guided, in fact, to make very rapid way down the river.

And so silently and steadily did it glide upon the surface of the stream that, by a little delusion of the fancy, Markham could imagine that some black moving panorama was passing him with great rapidity.

The river Thames was by no means spanned at that time by the number of bridges that now mark its course, and the wherry that carried our four fugitives, after encountering no little peril in shooting, as it was technically called, one of the narrow arches of old London Bridge, might be considered fairly on its route down the stream.

It was very curious to see how the daylight came in strange grey flashes, as if from far out at sea.

Bertha then spoke, glancing and pointing backward as she did so.

"See, Markham, how dim and distant like houses and spires of London are getting. We are leaving it and all dangers far behind us."

"Yes, thank Heaven!"

Dick Martin touched Markham on the arm, "Captain! captain!"

"What is it, Dick?"

"Look yonder."

Markham glanced in the direction indicated and saw a large eight-oared galley shooting out from a kind of wharf at the side of the stream, while some of its rowers seemed to rest upon their oars and to wait for orders from a man in uniform who sat at the stern.

"What is it, Dick?" asked Markham. "Do you know?"

"It is one of the new guard-boats, captain, that go about trying to catch Jacobites. They come up as high as Westminster sometimes."

There came a flush over the face of the young officer, and he looked at the Mystery in Scarlet for a few moments, as though he went about to ask him to take one of the oars, but Dick Martin interposed.

"Let me, captain. I can pull."

"Quick! then, quick!"

The wherry made much better speed by Markham and Dick each taking an oar than when the former used them both, and as regarded the guard-boat, there seemed to be some doubt or indecision of action on board, which was greatly in fayour of the fugitives, for they were fairly in the tide, near the centre of the stream, and shot along with rapidity.

The eight-oared galley, however, gave chase in the course of two or three minutes, and then began indeed a race which was one of life or death.

Lazily beating up the stream, and taking long tacks, was a black awkward-looking lugger, the sails of which flapped against its short stunted masts, and every rope on board of which seemed slack and uncared for. 

What little wind there was happened to be northerly, so that the lugger could just make a little way against the stream.

Markham made his determination in an instant.

"Dick," he said, "take both the oars, or, rather, be prepared to take this one the moment I push it over to you."

"Yes, captain."

"Now! now!"

The wherry approaching the lugger, and the lugger on one of its long tacks approaching the wherry, made together an accumulated speed that the eight-oared boat had no chance against.

Markham waved his hat just as the wherry shot into the shadow of the clumsy big black vessel.

There was a rattle and a squeaking of some pulley blocks, and the awkward-looking fabric paused for a moment.

"There is a king of England!" shouted Markham.

"Where is he?" responded a voice from somewhere on board the vessel, although no human being was visible.

Markham hesitated for one instant. His instincts as an officer were not quite obliterated, but a glance at Bertha was more than sufficient, and he gave the response—

"Not at St. James's."

A ladder of ropes was flung over the side of the lugger, and a couple of hardy-looking seamen descended, with all the ease as though they were going down a carpeted staircase.

The wherry was caught by a boat-hook, and then a small oval port-hole was flung open, and a visage bronzed and blackened by wind and weather was projected through it.

"How mush, mynheer? and vere vash to go?" 

"Any port in Holland," replied Markham. 

"How mush?"

"A thousand pounds!" cried Bertha, in clear shrill accents.

"All avay! All avay! Tomble ups! Tomble ups!"

There was a shrill whistle, and by the time our little party was upon the deck of the lugger the whole aspect of affairs on board seemed changed as if by magic.

Every rope was taut, and, as if instinct with life, the vessel rounded to the current of the stream, up flew a cloud of canvas, and she was off.

There was a cry of rage on board the eight-oared boat, succeeded by a rattle of firearms.

"Ha! ha! Von!" cried the Dutch captain. "Von!"

With a boom, that awakened many an echo on the banks of the river, the Dutch lugger fired a cannonade, more in bravado than with a view of doing any mischief, and then, the wind freshening, all chance of pursuit was in five minutes at an end.

* * * * * *

We take a leap past a month of time, and various events unexpected in their nature had taken place in London, while various other events thoroughly expected had not taken place at all.

To begin with the latter, the king, contrary to all the expectations of the Marquis of Charlton, took no notice whatever of the startling events of that terrible night when he had oscillated, so to speak, between St. James's and Whitehall.

There was some royal policy at work which induced this inaction, but, whatever was its motive, it was maintained without any apparent evasion.

The marriage of the Marquis of Charlton with Agnes Bellair was duly celebrated in the Chapel Royal, and at the same time another couple were there united—viz., Lucy Kerr and Lieutenant Ogilvie. 

We can only say that General Bellair and his son were present at these nuptials, and that the queen behaved munificently to both the brides.

And now we take another leap, and three years have passed away, at the end of which period we will conduct the reader to an ancient stately red-brick mansion at the Hague.

It is full of gable-ends and curious old windows, and surrounded by stately trees, that give it an air of solemn, if we may not say sombre, magnificence.

But the sun is shining through the dense foliage of those trees, and upon the parterres, crowded with beautiful tulips, which form such a feature of Dutch gardening.

And there is sunshine within as well as without, for a gay wedding party are filling the saloons with beauty, brilliancy, and joy.

Bertha has that morning been united to Captain Markham, and as the Mystery in Scarlet pronounces a blessing on them both there is a new-born joy upon his face, and he no longer regrets the visionary crown his once feeble grasp at which nearly cost him his own life and the lives of all he held most dear.

THE END.

Published @ COVE

August 2021