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 X.

A CHASE ON THE RIVER.

Dim and spectral amid the falling rain, and the mist that hovered over the surface of the river, sped onward the little wherry that contained the fortunes of Captain Markham and Bertha.

It only needed some untoward wash of the stream, some precarious gust of the racing wind, some half-hidden blackened pile rising from the bed of the water, unseen in the darkness, and that boat, with its precious living freight, would have sunk into the turgid river, and in this world there would have been no future for those in whose fortunes we are interested.

But that was not to be.

The pilgrimage of that fair young life, which now seemed confided to the care of him who worked manfully at the oars and guided the wherry amid the tumultuous waters as best he might, was but just begun.

Begun amidst cloud, storm, wreck, and tears.

Begun with those experiences of the heart which may chasten, but which assuredly dim the brightness and lustre of a life.

And if those few planks had ceased to hold together, and, with a brief pang through that watery ordeal, the two human souls which floated on them had passed away from this world and its belongings, would not that have been a happy consummation?

Perhaps.

With a violent surge the boat shot through one of the gloomy arches of Westminster.

For those few brief moments it was quite beyond the control of Markham, and all he could do was to save one of the oars from destruction as the eddy of the stream carried the boat in dangerous proximity to a pier of the bridge.

The wherry grated against the hard rough stone work, and then, with a plunge, shot out into the open water again, and was whirled round twice in contradictory currents before Markham could control its course.

The storm then seemed almost to have done its worst, or perhaps the gloomy old bridge acted as a sort of breakwater, and stilled the agitation of the stream above it.

Certainly the wind still blew in gusty violence, and certainly the rain, in long splashing particles, drifted and raged over the stream.

But the surface of the water itself was no longer in such wild commotion, and the boat floated steadily on the flowing tide.

Since their embarkation Bertha had not spoken, although Captain Markham, mingling his voice with the tempestuous weather about them, had striven more than once to utter some words of comfort and consolation to the young girl, the dim outline of whose figure he could scarcely see, even at the short distance she was from him in the wherry.

And now he spoke again, for the first rush of the danger of that flight on the Thames seemed to be past, and, whatever might be the destination of their little voyage, the expectation of disaster actually upon the river no longer existed.

"This is a sad night," said Markham, "for one like you to be exposed to the fury of rain and wind."

"And you," replied Bertha—" and you, too, and my father."

A pang shot across the heart of Markham at the thought that the task still lay before him of communicating, in some words about which there could be no evasion, the news of her father's actual fate to Bertha.

But he knew her not by that name as yet, and it diverted his thoughts a little, from the too painful moment, which was surely approaching, when he must tell her all, to speak to her on some other topic.


"We address each other strangely," he said, "and I should tell you that my name is Markham—Weed Markham."

"And mine, Bertha."

"But you have another name?"

"Yes, a strange one. It sounds German, and between my father and myself we have no occasion to pronounce it. It is Guelph."

Markham bent down his head and made no reply.

And so the boat drifted, scarcely guided by the oars, onward with the tide, and after some moments of reflection he was about to speak to the young girl again, when she pointed towards the right bank of the river as she sat in the boat and spoke in some agitation.

"There is a larger wherry yonder, with several rowers. They carry a lantern, and by its light, dim as it is, it seems to me that they have been pointing menacingly towards us."

"Ah!"

Markham ceased rowing, and only gently moved the oars so as to keep the boat's head steadily to the current, as he shifted round sufficiently to see the wherry indicated by Bertha.

There needed only a moment's observation to convince him that it was in pursuit, and the rapidity with which it took a diagonal course across the river was an assurance of speedy capture unless some accident befriended him.

There might, or there might not, be present and actual danger in being overhauled by this wherry, but, after the mysterious chances that had beset him for the last few hours, Captain Markham was in no mood to trust to favourable chances.

The very atmosphere of his existence seemed to be beset with danger, and amid the elements of nature he appeared to feel now that his destruction lurked in many guises.

He bent to the oars, and the much lighter loaded wherry shot through the water at increased speed.

There were two active rowers in the pursuing boat, but it was deep in the water, and, although now fairly on the track of Markham and Bertha, it was doubtful if the increased power of propulsion from the two pairs of oars was not compensated for by the lightness of the preceding boat.

A long sparkling gleam of light from a lantern shone upon the surface of the water, and, after pursuing a waving devious course for a few seconds, was directed into Markham's wherry.

"Crouch down, Bertha," he said, "that you may be


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out of that line of light. I know not who or what these people may be, and they may fire upon us."

"And in that case," said Bertha, "you alone will be exposed to the danger."

"Never mind me, but crouch down, I pray you. There may be peril."

"If there be we will share it."

"Nay, I entreat you."

Even as Markham spoke the lull in the storm upon the river, which had lasted so long as even to induce a belief that the gale of wind and the dash of rain had passed away, was broken up as if by the touch of the wand of an enchanter.


A roaring wind howled and screamed across the stream, and the downfall of rain and sleet was some thing truly fearful in its vehemence and rattling intensity.

As if through a dimmed, splashed, and murky medium, Markham could only faintly see the pursuing boat, while the smaller wherry was caught in some rapid boiling current of the stream, and dashed onwards with a force that defied all control.

"We are lost!" exclaimed Markham.

"Father!" was the one word that escaped the lips of Bertha.

With a crash the wherry struck against some stone steps, and splintered into fragments, as though made of egg-shell.

Markham dropped the oars, and, he knew not how, amid the debris of the boat, he caught Bertha in his arms.

Another moment, and there was a rush of water in his ears, and his eyes were blinded by the foaming splash of the rain and the river. Then there was a brief struggle for life—one of those superhuman lights with the grim Destroyer which a strong arm will engage in at such a moment, be the odds what they may.

He felt a foothold—he slipped—he felt it again—another struggle, and then he stood upon the old worn stone steps against which the wherry had been dashed, with Bertha in his arms, and a seething roar of the water lashed and foamed about his feet, as though reluctant to quit its prey.

"Courage!" whispered Markham. "We are saved!"

"I must not die," said Bertha, "for I am all the world to him."

To ascend the remainder of the steps was Markham's next effort, and an effort indeed it was, for they wore worn and slimy, and slippery with dank vegetation.

A slip would have been fatal, and it was with a feeling of exquisite relief that he gained their summit in safety, and, passing under an archway, from the side of which by one hinge hung a dilapidated front gate, he found himself surrounded by a mass of reeking dripping vegetation, amid which sprung up some tall trees, the branches of which were dashed to and fro by the wind, and from which descended copious showers of accumulated rain-drops.

The place was gloomy in the extreme, but, since we live, think, breathe, and have our being by contrasts, what a haven of refuge it seemed from the tempests, the river, and the wild rush of the angry stream on that night of squall and violence!

"Where are we?" asked Bertha, in low anxious tones.

[“]In truth I know not, but this should be the watergate of some old mansion by the margin of the Thames.[“]

Markham set down his fair burden, and strove to shield her as well as he could from the rapidly-falling rain. At the same time he kept his hand near his sword hilt, for he could not tell but that his flight up those slippery steps from the river might have been noticed by the persons in the pursuing boat, whoever they were.

There might still be danger. A few minutes, however, sufficed to dissipate all idea of pursuit or aggression, and, unless Markham and his young charge bud escaped from the positive dangers of the Thames to some unknown peril in the place where they had found shelter, they might be said to have overcome the terrors of that night.

The massive trunks of the old trees of the garden presented by far too sturdy a resistance to the wind to be in the slightest degree influenced by its passing squalls.

But the long slender branches were dashed hither and thither in wild fury.

"And all this is for me," whispered Bertha. "You suffer all this for me!"

"Courage! courage!" replied Markham. "I should only regret the toil and the danger if the result were not to save you from all foes."

"Ah! Mr. Markham, there is one who will thank you."

"Do not call me 'Mr. Markham.'"

"Forgive me. You are an officer?"

"Nay, I want no title from you, Bertha, but my plain name."

"Markham?"

"Even so, and I will call you Bertha, for although our acquaintance bears date but a few short hours, we must learn to measure it by its events, and not by its actual time."

"Yes, oh! yes."

"Lean on me, then, Bertha, and we will explore this garden."

"I am strong, and can walk well."

"And brave?"

"I should be so, for my father is a soldier."

She still did not speak of that father in the past tense, notwithstanding all the sad and mournful hints that Markham had given her that be was no more.

The idea that she could ever be separated from one who loved her so dearly and fondly was far away from the experiences of that young heart, and she still looked upon this meeting and association with Captain Markham as but a passing episode in her existence—a brief and perilous journey, so to speak, which was to end in placing her again in her father's arms.

In a higher sense perhaps it was so.

And now, as they left the river pace by pace behind them, they felt less of the fury of the wind, for it was cut up into gusty eddies by the closely-planted vegetation and some outbuildings that began to show themselves dimly and darkly in the ancient garden.

"We shall surely approach some mansion," said Markham, "and as yet, Bertha, I think that neither you nor I have enemies enough that we should expect; to meet them at every turn."

"I know not why we have enemies at all," replied Bertha, "but still I know it to be true, for my father has ever warned me of those who would seek his and my life for reasons that I was to know in time to come, but which he ever said he would not burden my young imagination with until I had seen more of the great world about me."

Captain Markham had a superior knowledge to Bertha on this subject, and he was not disposed to pursue either the train of thought or inquiry.

The trees seemed to open, and amid the darkness they could see a clear space of some trifling extent stretching out before them.

Beyond that again, blacker still than the night sky, appeared something that might be a rock, a battlement, a hill-side, or some huge pile of building, which obstructed their further progress.


CHAPTER XI.

A ROYAL REFUGE.

Bertha clung closer to the arm of Markham, and there must have been some diminution in the density of the night clouds which were careening before the tempest, for they could both sее mere plainly.

It was evidently some large building that was immediately before them.

"There surely should be some light at some casement, high or low, of this edifice," said Markham, "notwithstanding the night is so far advanced."

"Hush!" said Bertha. "There are the chimes of some clock. Ah! I know the tones well."

"Whence come they?"

"From the old Abbey. We are yet close at hand to that dreadful house."

The chimes struck the four quarters, and then in solemn tones the hour of three was given forth.

"Let this place be what it may," said Markham, "it surely must be inhabited by Christian souls. We have been assailed, not assailors; we have suffered, not inflicted; and they will not deny us shelter."

An unknown dread seemed to possess the imagination of Bertha. Closer still she clung to Markham, twining her right arm round his left and holding his hand with nervous eagerness.

And so they ascended some stone steps, on which lay scattered leaves and fragments of small branches of trees which had been dashed off by the tempest.

There was a door that yielded to the touch.

An unmistakeable odour of flowers and vegetation.

It was some observatory or greenhouse they were passing through, the floor of which was damp and mouldy. Markham started back and hastily disengaged the hilt of his sword.

"Bertha, there is some one!"

"There are two persons," whispered Bertha, "and they seem to stand like sentinels on either side of what, even in this dim light, I see to be a doorway."

Markham spoke in firm but low accents—

"Be ye whom ye may, we seek but shelter from the storm on the river, which has wrecked us on the garden steps."

The mysterious figures made no movement and uttered no sound.

Bertha advanced rapidly two paces.

"They are statues, Markham!"

The idea seemed to be sufficient at once to carry conviction with it, and Captain Markham placed his hand upon one of the figures.

Cold damp stone.

"Statues indeed, Bertha. We have nothing to fear from these mute sentinels."

"Nothing, nothing."

"And yet this is a most mysterious residence, if residence it be."

"It is, Markham; and if we still had a boat, I think I would almost rather brave the perils of the stream than remain in it."

"Nay, Bertha, we will not be frightened by phantasies of our own imagination, for be this building what it may, it is but so many bricks and stones piled one upon another by human creatures like ourselves, and can contain no mysteries and danger but these that courage, innocence, and humanity may encounter."

They passed between the two statues.

The floor upon which they trod was soft, and there was an impression upon their minds that they were in some large apartment, although the shadows were so dense about them that they moved with the extremest caution, for fear of encountering some unseen obstacle.

Markham whispered to Bertha—

"Can you control your nerves, and summon courage enough, Bertha, to stand still on this spot alone, while I carefully feel round the walls of this apartment for some mode of exit?"

"I can."

"Your voice in a moment will summon me to your side."

"I know it. Go, Markham."

He left her reluctantly, but yet this was a movement he could best make alone.

He felt that the walls were of panel, and now and then he encountered the frame of a picture.

More than once, too, the cold surface of a mirror struck a chill to his hands.

Then something yielded.

It was a massive curtain.

A thin stream of light, so weak and uncertain that it seemed like the first effort of day-dawn, came down a long narrow passage, and, stealing over the mysterious apartment, fell upon the figure of Bertha, still and statuesque, where Markham had left her.

She darted forward and clung to his arm again.

"There is a light."

"Hush!"

Closer to him still.

"Bertha, I think I know now where we are."

"You do, Markham?"

"Yes, and I am only surprised I did not think of it before, especially when Í heard, by the Abbey clock, how close we were still to Westminster."

"Where are we, Markham?"

"This is the most ancient remaining part of the old palace of Whitehall. I believe it is already doomed to destruction by a resolution of Parliament , and it has the reputation of being haunted by too many memories of the past, and by too many crimes and griefs, to find a voice raised in favour of its preservation."

"But the light, Markham?"

"That I cannot understand, let it come from where it may, for the whole of this river portion of the building has long since been uninhabited."

Bertha trembled.

The cold, the damp, the reaction of the excitements of the last few hours, all were telling upon the delicate casket which held so fair a jewel of a soul as that which belonged to her.

"You shall have rest—you shall have warmth, help, refreshment, let them cost what they may."

Markham drew his sword.

The nearly exhausted young girl seemed to have no power now even to give an opinion as to any mode of procedure that might suggest itself to him.

She could only cling to his arm, and move languidly by his side along that narrow passage, so dimly lighted by some reflected radiance entering at its further extremity.

But dim as that radiance was, it was sufficient to show that passage was or had been richly carpeted, and that the mouldings of its panels were at one time resplendent with guilding.

The ceiling was dull and dismal, but a close observation was sufficient to show that it was arched and painted in that florid, sprawling, and allegorical style common in the previous century.

Onward still, slowly advancing, until the end of the long narrow passage was reached.

An abrupt turn to the left, and a large palatial-looking apartment presented itself.

The light there was a little stronger, although more diffused.

Its source, too, was sufficiently evident.

At the further end of this really handsome apartment there were a couple of richly gilt and decorated folding doors.

One of these doors was wide open, and it was through that opening that the light came from an adjoining room, a very small portion of which only caught the observation of Markham as he paused now, in irresolution to know what to do.

There was a feeling in his mind that some one must be in the adjoining apartment, and along with that feeling came a strung imaginative sensation that it was some one whom he had to look upon as an enemy.

The silence in the old palatial building was profound, and it was in the lowest possible whisper that Markham addressed Bertha.

"Again, only for a few moments, I leave you alone."

"Alone? alone?" she murmured. "No, not alone!"

"I shall be still within your sight, but I wish to reconnoitre the adjoining room."

She leant more heavily still upon his arm.

"Courage, Bertha, courage."

"I think it is but sleep."

Markham looked around him in despair. And yet there was much in that apartment to raise


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the spirits and exalt the courage. It was magnificent in its proportions, the ceiling lofty and elaborately painted, the walls splendidly adorned with carving, gilding, and painted panels.

By the five windows, which reached nearly from floor to ceiling, there were slender white columns, with gilt capitals.

The floor was of polished oak, and the furniture, although somewhat antique, was costly and well preserved.

Captain Markham felt that he and his young fair charge had strayed into one of the principal apartments of the old palace.

And still she hung more heavily on his arm.

There was but one resource. He lifted her gently on to a couch, and noiselessly taking from a table close at hand a massive velvet cover, he folded it about her.

"Rest, Bertha, rest. If harm approach you, it shall be through the heart of him who has sworn to defend you, and while I have life I will keep my obligation to the living and my promise to the dead.”

She heard him not.

Captain Markham bent over the fair pale young face and listened intently.

Yes, she breathed.

One light kiss upon the brow, and then he left her.

Moving slowly, and silently as foot could fall, he approached the open folding door, and, holding back his sword arm, lest even the glitter of the light upon the weapon should betray his presence, he peered cautiously into the adjoining apartment.

The room was of much smaller size than that in which Bertha now lay sleeping but it was, if any thing, much richer in its adornments and furnishing.

It was not the room, however, that attracted the observation of Captain Markham, but its human occupant.

Seated on a high-backed antique-looking chair, by a fire that smouldered on the hearth, beneath a very richly carved and adorned chimneypiece, was a man resting his elbows on his knee, and muttering to himself in drowsy tones.

Upon the corner of the chimneypiece, some distance above his head, one long wax candle in a bright silver candlestick burnt with a steady lustre.

It was that candle, and a kind of flickering radiance that came from the embers on the hearth, that had produced the dim reflected twilight that had directed Bertha and Markham to those apartments.

The man went on muttering unintelligible words.

Captain Markham could only see one knee, a foot, a portion of an arm, and a few curls of a periwig, as а fashionable perruque of that day was called; but the man, whoever he was, seemed so intent upon gazing at the fire, and in dreamily muttering his own thoughts, that Captain Markham ventured to obtrude himself further into the room than was discreet, and strained his sense of hearing to endeavour to catch what fell from the lips of the mysterious occupant of the old deserted palace of Whitehall.

"I wish—I wish—I only wish I could find out what it was but he won't tell me. I shall find out some day, but not yet. He is close—close; and of course I dare not ask him, familiar as he is at all times. Oh! if I could only find out! If I could only find out!"

Where had Captain Markham heard that voice before?

Under what possible circumstances had those somewhat peculiar tones met his ears?

"By peeping, and by prying, and by seeming to care nothing about it, I shall come upon him all unawares some day, and find it out, and then—then—ha! ha! —and then, perhaps, his Most Gracious Majesty will find that it is easier to pay me than to put me out of the way in his own royal fashion.”

Markham started back.

Those words, "his Most Gracious Majesty," at once brought to his recollection who was speaking.

They could be uttered in that peculiar way by no other lips than those of Mr. Norris, the king's valet.


CHAPTER XII.

TREASON.

There was the man who had sought his life, or, at all events, had been the ready and willing tool of him who had done so.

Markham advanced a step and raised his sword. It seemed to him at that moment a fit and proper vengeance if he were to pass the long keen blade even through the back of the chair, and so pin Master Norris to his seat.

And at that moment Captain Markham forgot Bertha.

Only for a moment.

With a rush back to his heart came again the feeling that he alone now stood between that young girl and many a threatened danger, and were he to take summary vengeance upon Norris, who should say but that he might be accumulating disaster around the head of that innocent young creature, so dependent upon him, and him alone?

"Yes," added Norris, "I will find it out. What can he mean by promising a man half a million of money just to come and be shot or knocked on the head with so much trouble? Half a million! I will find it out. I wonder if Frederick knows what it is. No, no; we should hear of it if he did. What did he want to kill that Captain Markham for? He didn't know it. But perhaps he wants to put everybody out of the way that has had anything to do with it, though they may not know it, and if so—oh! ah! ah!—"

Captain Markham drew back.

"He—he will be trying to put me out of the way some day!"

Norris sprang to his feet.

Markham drew further back still, and was completely himself hidden from observation, although he could still see into the apartment.

Tap, tap, tap.

A mysterious knocking.

From behind one of the wainscot panels it seemed to come, or from the ceiling, or to be in the very air, so dim and uncertain was the sound.

But Norris seemed to know something about it.

He put himself into a listening attitude, and then, bending his body at right angles, in that manner so strange and so incidental to him, he crept across the floor, making his way with unerring exactitude towards а portion of the wall where there hung a tall pier-glass, or rather where one was let into the panel itself, and reached to within about six inches of the floor. Norris seemed at first as though he were going headlong through this glass, but when close to it he must have touched some secret spring, for it revolved upon its centre.

A foot and boot came through the opening. Norris bowed lower still, if that were possible, and seemed in an obsequious manner to be saluting the foot and boot.

"Yah! Get out!"

Norris drew back a step or two. Through the narrow opening emerged a figure that required but a second glance on the part of Markham to recognise.

The snuff-coloured suit, the wrinkled face, the keen small suspicious eyes, the star upon the breast, glittering and resplendent through the thin long fingers that were spread over it as if partially to hide it, proclaimed the presence of his Gracious Majesty George the Second.

Norris still kept his horizontal position.

The king glared about him with the suspicious ferret-like look that was always incidental to him on coming into a strange apartment.

"Norris."

"Your Majesty?"

"It's a bad night. How came it so bad a night?"

"I cannot imagine, your Majesty; but I'm sure if the a—the a—that is, the night had—had any idea that your Majesty would be abroad—"

"Bah! Bo!"

Norris bowed an inch lower.

"Fetch our cloak."

"May I humbly ask your Majesty where I may have the honour of—of—"

"Outside there—outside there."

Norris crept through the opening in the wall, and the moment he was gone the king darted from corner to corner of the apartment with unwonted agility, peeping into every recess and shadowy place with curious eyes.

Then, suddenly assuming his ordinary attitude as Norris reappeared, bearing a large roquelaire cloak, he spoke in his usual harsh grating tones.

"Norris."

"My gracious liege?"

"You are honest, true, and faithful."

Norris got behind a chair directly.

"We feel, Norris, that we can trust you, and we don't trust everybody."

Norris got behind a table.

"And so, Norris, we have this night determined that you shall assist us in the attempt to discover in these apartments a—a—"

"Your Gracious Majesty?"

"A state paper."

Norris bowed so low that he disappeared for a moment completely under the table.

"A state paper so important that if we find it, Norris, if we find it, and any human eye but our own looks upon its lightest word, that eye will be in some danger of never looking upon word, or life, or light, or darkness more."

"I'm a dead man!" murmured Norris.

The king sat down on a chair and glared about him.

He held in his hand a long sheathed court sword, with a delicately wrought hilt of gold, and with it he pointed to a somewhat gaudy cabinet of Oriental or Japanese workmanship which stood between two of the windows.

"Norris."

"My royal master?"

"You will open that cabinet, and we will sit here. How loose these scabbards are!"

But a slight movement of the sword the king carried shook the sheath from the long glittering blade as he placed it across his knees, and sat looking grim and suspicious.

Norris slowly approached the cabinet, keeping as he did so a sidelong look upon the face of the king. In fact, the valet was placed in a difficulty, for his extreme anxiety not to commit a breach of etiquette, and turn his back upon royalty, was scarcely compatible with the position of the cabinet and the chair on which the king sat.

The consequence was that Norris had to imitate in а humble way the peculiar sideways movement of some gigantic crab.

"Yah! bah!" cried the king. "Never mind."

The valet construed these royal words into an intimation that etiquette was for once to be laid aside, and he proceeded more directly towards the cabinet in question.

"It is locked, your Majesty."

"My good Norris, you will break it open, and you will leave no hole, no corner, no crevice unsearched, and, my good Norris, if you find that which I seek, which will be a state paper or papers, you shall have—my good Norris, you shall have—"

Norris kept an eye on the king, and would have got behind the cabinet if that had been practicable.

"You shall have one of these, my good Norris."

The royalty of England wore one of those huge flapped waistcoats which the new dynasty had brought into fashion, and into the right-hand pocket he now dived his hand and produced a lozenge.

"Those, my good Norris, were made by our own physician Van Roost, and are good against the night air, and the fogs, and the damps."

"Your Majesty is too good."

"Bah! No. We take one ourselves, and we reserve one for you, Norris."

If Norris's glances beneath his half-shut eyelids had been forked lightnings they would assuredly have gone through and through his Majesty George the Second, so keen were they; and, carried back on the wings of those glances to the sense, mind, and judgment of the valet, came the observation that the lozenge which the king partook of himself came from the left-hand pocket of the waistcoat, while that intended as his ultimate reward was carefully deposited back again in the right.

That was enough for Norris. Not the wealth of kingdoms—not the diadem of the world—not mountains of glittering rubies—not a promising perpetuity of all the delights of an Oriental paradise would have induced him to put between his lips that lozenge that reposed so quietly in the right-hand waistcoat pocket of the king.

But he bowed lower still, until the perspective view of his back became almost lost, and he seemed to be endeavouring actually to stand upon his head.

"Yah! bah!" cried the king. "Open him! Open him!"

The Majesty of England very often used the personal for the impersonal pronoun, so that Norris did not take this that he was to be opened, but the cabinet.

And in some mysterious manner the valet seemed to be provided with small serviceable workmanlike tools for any emergency.

He screwed a piece of steel into a short wooden handle, and the lock of the cabinet made but a faint resistance.

Creak—snap!

It was open.

The king, in his eagerness, rose, and, laying aside the sword across the arms of the chair in which he had sat, he approached the cabinet.

There were two series of small drawers enclosed by the outer doors, which were now flung wide open, and both the king and the valet examined them one after the other eagerly.

Empty—all empty.

Then Norris stepped back a pace and looked up and down at the article of furniture and shook his head.

"If your Majesty will allow me to give on opinion, I do not think that there are any secret drawers or hiding places in this cabinet."

The king was evidently of the same opinion, for he stamped with vexation, and glared with hostile eyes at the harmless-looking piece of furniture.

Clasping his hands behind his back, he paced the room in s shambling disordered fashion, having a kind of scuffle with his legs as he turned, as though they did not obey his will exactly without some remonstrances.

"He said a cabinet in a royal palace, and I thought it was this. Who knows? Who knows? Perhaps there is no such thing; or, if there be such thing, it may rest and rot—rest and rot for all time!"

Norris watched the king eagerly.

"Yes, yes! yah! And if all that know are dead—dead—there is no risk, no danger. Ah! let us think. What if—what if Frederick —ah! ah! eugh! eugh! eugh! eugh! —what if Frederick, when we are no more, should encounter this little disclosure? Eugh! eugh! eugh! Norris!"

"Your Majesty?"

"Our cloak."

Norris looked like some strange animal which had found a cloak in a wood and picked it up with his mouth, as, bent at tight angles, he approached the king.

"And, Norris—"

"My gracious master?"

"We will look through these rooms. There may be some other cabinet. Take the light and precede us, Norris."

The king clasped the cloak about his neck, and, holding the still sheathless sword by the blade, in an


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awkward fashion, he followed Norris, who walked backward before him, carrying the single wax-light.

And now Captain Markham, who had been an acute listener and attentive spectator of this scene between the Majesty of England and his valet, felt that a crisis had arrived.

It might be possible to conceal himself, but how could he prevent the sleeping Bertha from being discovered upon the couch, where she reposed so peacefully?

What was he to do?

The determination of the king to explore the apartments had come upon him by surprise.

He was lost in a whirl of contending ideas.

Improbable as success would be, would it be wise for him to attempt to hide both Bertha and himself?

Or would it be better to step boldly forward, sword in hand, and so endeavour to put an end to the perplexities that surrounded him?

That he held both the king and his valet at his mercy of course he well knew, but that was scarcely the question, and while all these thoughts rushed confusedly through his mind he rather mechanically and naturally receded towards the couch on which Bertha lay than took that direction with any defined idea of what he was about to do.

Slowly Norris came through the folding doors, just now and then casting his eyes about him, so as to avoid any obstacle in his path.

The king followed, still holding the sword by the blade, and gently swaying the gold hilt up and down, as though estimating its weight.

"Halt! Bah! halt!"

Norris came to a standstill.

"Hold up the light. We will go no further."

His holding up the light was calculated to scatter its beams over the whole apartment, and a discovery of Bertha upon the couch was imminent.

If the happiest thoughts are frequently the result of accident, so the happiest actions sometimes are carried out without a thought or previous train of reasoning.

Markham had made his way behind the couch on which Bertha was lying, and now, even at the moment when Norris raised the light and its flame began to increase and burn more steadily from the cessation of motion, Markham lifted the slumbering Bertha, still wrapped in the heavy velvet table-cover, and crouched down with her almost to the floor behind the couch.

"Yah!" said the king. "There is nothing here. This is the old card-room, where the second Charles played basset and ombre with his graceless crew of courtiers. Yah! bah!"

Norris bowed low again.

Then the king started and dropped the sword, and Norris reeled back against a heavy armchair, which, yielding to his weight, ran along upon its castors, carrying him with it in great confusion.

Unmistakable sounds of the presence of some visitors in the smaller chamber came upon the still night air, and then a voice, high, harsh, and discordant, broke the silence.

"You will guard every exit, gentlemen, and take every watchful care of the safety of his Majesty, both before and after he has signed his gracious abdication."

"Ab—di —cation?" gasped Norris.

The king clasped his hands together, and reeled once completely round, as if his legs would do it in spite of him.

“It’s Frederick! It’s Frederick!” he gasped.

"Treason!" yelled Norris, as the chair slipped away from him, and he fell to the ground.

"Yah! bah! Hash! hash!" cried the king. We are not dead yet."

(To be continued in our next.)