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 XXV.

A DREAM DISPELLED.

The Marquis of Charlton waited with some curiosity the appearance of his unknown visitor. The age was decidedly a gallant one, and it will be recollected that it was likewise the age of Ranelagh Gardens—the age of masks and dominoes.

And, more than all, it was the age of those entertainments which in our days would not be tolerated for a moment among our own wives and daughters, and which when they do take place are confined most exclusively to that class of society who are alike deficient in character and morals. Need we name masquerades?

At that period, however, the very élite of society found a delirious pleasure in these meetings where the mask alike concealed the impertinent appeal and the blush of modesty.

But the Marquis of Charlton was not one of the fast young men of his age, and such a visitor as the one described was a curiosity to him.

He had all that innate feeling of respect for feminine humanity which belongs to the character of the true gentleman, and although he might have had some suspicions that his evening visitor in the mask and the roquelaire might not exactly belong to the grand monde, he was prepared to receive her as respectfully as though she were a duchess.

Perhaps a great deal more so, for there were some duchesses at that time who—but that is apart from our story.

However, whatever might be the guesses or expectations of the young Marquis of Charlton with respect to his lady visitor, they certainly never in the remotest degree connected her with those hopes or fears which were agitating his heart.

Dick Martin flung the door open and drew himself up to his full littleness.

"The lady, colonel."

The marquis bowed and wheeled forward a chair upon its castors towards the fair unknown.

He began to call her in his own mind the "Fair Unknown," for, notwithstanding the heavy folds of the roquelaire cloak, and notwithstanding the mask that concealed her features, there was the indescribable movement of youth and grace about her.

He could almost have sworn that the face which was concealed by the black velvet mask was a young and handsome one.

The half bow, half curtsey, with which she returned his salutation was not acquired in any vulgar or common region.

She took the chair likewise with a certain elegance of grace and motion which showed that she considered it a courtesy, right for him to offer and right for her to accept.

The two palace wax candles upon the table burnt but dimly, throwing the corners of the apartment into deep shadows, but the light, such as it was, had the steadiness and lustre incidental to it, and at all events it fell sufficiently strongly upon the face of the young marquis.

The lady in the mask was evidently agitated. He saw her breast rise and fall almost as quickly as though she had run a race.

And so the Marquis of Charlton was induced to say—

"Pray compose yourself, madam, and take your own time in making any communication to me. I am able to wait your leisure."

The lady then hastily removed her mask, and flung it to the floor at her feet.

"I dislike mysteries and concealments, marquis," she said.

"Do you know me?"

"Most certainly. You are the Honourable Lucy Kerr, maid of honour to her Majesty."

"I am."

"And this visit, so flattering—"

"Hush, marquis. It is not flattering in the least. There is no occasion to assume a character which does not belong to you. You are not—well, I will not say what you are not. I prefer saying what you are, which is simply, I believe, a gentleman, and as to be gentle and to have gentle thoughts make up the true characteristics of that title, I throw myself upon your gentlest construction to excuse my presence here."

"If there be any service I can render to you, be assured that the gentleness of my character shall not be wanting, and, likewise, I pray you consider that there is another phase of the gentlest disposition, the bravery of being stern in a good cause. Is this the sort of aid you seek?"

The Marquis of Charlton laid his hand upon the sword, which, as he had received it from Lieutenant Ogilvie, he had placed carelessly on the table.

"No, marquis, no."

"Then I wait and listen."

Again the breast of the young girl rose and fell in that tumultuous manner he had before noticed.
She flung aside impatiently the heavy quilted collar of the roquelaire cloak, as though it stifled her.

"Marquis," she said, "I am the friend of Agnes Bellair."

"You could not proclaim to me a dearer title."

"I am sorry to hear you say so."

"Sorry?"

"Yes, marquis, from my inmost heart I am sorry."

"But permit me to say that I claim now a right to portion of your friendship. The friend of Agnes Bellair is likewise my friend, since within this hour I have received a communication which makes me at once the happiest, the most envied—"

"Stop, marquis, stop!"

The young man gazed upon her with some alarm.

"Agnes has already told me, and I tell you, in order that you may feel that I come to you with proper credentials sо to speak, Agnes has already told me she has authorised her father to carry to you her consent to become the Marchioness of Charlton."

"He has performed his office, and I am the happiest—"

"No, no. Do not."

"Do not what?"

"Do not say that. You do not know, you cannot know."

The young marquis drew himself up to his full height, and a perceptible change came over his countenance.

"Madam," he said, "if the purport of this communication from you to me be to cast, or attempt to cast, one shadow, however filmy, upon the pure soul of her I love—"

Lucy Kerr interrupted him impatiently.

"Silence! sir, silence! Agnes is my friend. Do you think I do not know her better than you do? You paint her as something divine in your imagination. I dare say you call her your goddess—your divinity—something after the manner of you lovers; but I know her to be mortal, and of all mortals that I do know she is the best, the bravest, and the purest."

"A thousand thousand thanks."

"Remain where you are, marquis. We may possibly shake hands when we part, but we must not now."

"Not now?"

"No. I have a question to ask of you."

"It shall be answered freely."

"Do you think—that is, don't you think— no, no, that is not the way to put it. Do you not see that about the court there are other fair faces? And do you not think that accident and opportunity might possibly—no, no, I am not explaining myself to you well, marquis. This is not my way. I must speak clearly and distinctly, or not at all."

"What can you mean?"

"I mean, then, do you not think that you could love another as much as you love, or fancy you love, Agnes Bellair?"

"Fancy?"

"That's right. I ought not to have used the word. You believe you love her. Now answer me. Do you not think you might love another?"

"Never!"

"Marquis, it will sound so strange for me to put you upon your confession, but I have made up my mind, and I generally do what I have made up my mind to. I have made up my mind, then, to ask you a very impertinent question."

"I will answer it; but before I do so, answer me one thing."

"What may that be?"

"Do you come to me from Agnes, and is she aware of your visit?"

"She is."

"Then probe my heart, look into its inmost recesses—I was about to say its most secret chambers, but it has none. Ask what you will, and I will answer."

"That is well. And now for the impertinent question. Is Agnes Bellair your first love?"

"First, only love, and last."

"Then—then— Oh! marquis, have you not heard that first love seldom comes to aught, and that —that—"

The marquis leant heavily upon the table, and gazed into the face of the young girl.

"I shall never make a diplomatist," exclaimed Lucy, "unless the very highest reach of diplomatic art is to be direct and candid. Marquis, Agnes has promised her father that she will marry you, but she does not love you."

For a moment the room seemed to whirl round before the eyes of the young officer, and he was compelled to cling to the edge of the table for support.

"Now you hate me," added Lucy. "Now I may well put on my mask again, for oven its senseless hideous blackness will be more acceptable to you than my features. But oh! marquis, consider this young girl—this Agnes. she has affections, sympathies, tender yielding feelings, and she will wed you because she has promised—promised for her father's sake—promised for her brother's sake. It is a gulf, marquis, a gulf into which, like the old Roman, she leaps to save all that is dear to her. She may esteem you, she may admire you, she may make to you a dear and gentle wife; but, marquis, I tell you again she does not love you."

"Spare me! spare me! No more! No more just now. Let me think."

"It may be that you will be content—it may be that to call that fair face yours you will barter other and higher feelings—it may be that your own love may be sufficient—"

"Oh! peace! peace!"

"But I tell you again she does not love you."

"The world goes from me—a mist has swept before the sunshine. I felt it, I knew it, I saw the cloud—the cloud which was but a speck, but now hides all the fair sky from me. Perhaps—perhaps it is merciful."

"Marquis."

"Hush! oh! hush!"

He rested his head upon his hands.

Lucy sat and gazed at him with every vestige of colour fled from her cheeks, and her fingers trembling as she held tightly the folds of the roquelaire.

Then he looked up again.

"The devotion of my life, the unceasing tenderness, the love that will never sleep—surely this, surely all this may yet win her best affections when—when—"

"No."

"You say 'No.' You say 'No.' Why should you say 'No?' What is it that wins woman? Is there no sympathy in love? I tell you, Lucy Kerr, that I will make the very atmosphere around her full of the devotion of my heart. She shall know nothing but affection—feel nothing, hear nothing but tenderness. The winds of heaven shall not visit her roughly, I will shield her even from the seasons' difference, and she must—she must love me."

"No, because—"

"Ah!"

"Because she loves another."

The young marquis stood up pale and ghastly.

He flung aside the heavy masses of his hair from his brow, and the forced smile that sat upon his lips as he bowed was something terrible to see.

"My best compliments—my highest regards to Lady Agnes Bellair, and tell her—tell her, if you please, madam, that I release her from her enforced promise. Tell her that I would not willingly pluck a wayside flower to place it on my breast if I thought, if I dreamt, for one wandering moment that it turned its fair coronal from my eyes. I release her, I release her. May she be very very happy. My hopes, my—my compliments and good wishes—the compliments, and good wishes and kindest hopes of the Marquis of Charlton. May she be happy—happy—very happy!"

He drooped at this.

It was upon his knees he fell, and then he stretched his arms across the table, and his head rested on them, and the tears came—the hot scalding gush. It was but for a moment, and all was over.

Lucy Kerr had sprung to her feet.

Impulsively she approached the table, and she held him by the arm.

Then she shrank back again, for he looked up so pale and wan.

"It is over! it is over!"


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And there was not another word between these two, and in a few moments more the young brave soldier was alone with his desolation.


CHAPTER XXVI.

REAL LOVE.

It was nearly six o'clock in this same evening, which was memorable from the interview we have just detailed between Lucy Kerr and the Marquis of Charlton, that the latter wrote the following note, and transmitted it by Dick Martin the drummer to one of the queen's pages: —

"St. James's Palace.

"To the Honourable Lucy Kerr.

"Madam,—I have but one request to make supplementary to the interview with which you honoured me some time since.

"The request is one which I hope you will look upon by the same light with which it is reflected from my heart.

"You have said there is another who holds a place in the esteem of the Lady Agnes Bellair, which for a few brief minutes I hoped was mine.

"I request of you, from your candour, ingenuousness, and frankness, to name to me that other.

"Do not misunderstand me. I have no rival. The word finds no signification in my breast, but I wish to know the name of that other, in order that, even should we accidentally meet, I may do him what kindness I can for the sake of her who loves him.

"Believe me to be, madam,

"Your obliged servant,

"CHARLTON."

Lucy had not had the courage after her interview with the young marquis to show herself to Agnes.

She had retired to her own apartment, and then, shutting herself in, had abandoned herself to reflection, the impress of which remained for many days upon her face.

She was in that state of nervous agitation that a slight rap at the door of the apartment startled her.

It was the royal page, with the marquis's letter. It is needless to say that Lucy Kerr read this epistle with great emotion.

"Yes," she said, "he shall know. It is but right that he should know there is nothing in this matter that he can ask which I will not answer if I can."

She wrote upon the centre of a page of paper the one name.

"Captain Weed Markham, Coldstream Guards."

She then folded the paper notewise and addressed it to the Marquis of Charlton.

"Now I have done all I can," she cried, "and oh! Agnes, Agnes, may you never have to do for me what I have done for you this day! You may suffer, your heart may be torn by distracting emotions, but there are others who suffer more even than they can breathe to the car of friendship. You have confided in me, Agnes, and I have helped you. I will not, dare not, confide in you, for you cannot help me."

Lucy Kerr washed away as many of the traces of her mental suffering an she could by dashing cold water copiously upon her face, and then, making a great effort to be very calm, she went in search of Agnes.

A very few words told her all.

And Agnes went now, perhaps, more bitterly than she had done in the midst of her grief.

She felt very lonely.

She was not sure that Markham loved her.

The frivolous vanity of supposing that every one must needs be enamoured of her found no place in the mind of Agnes Bellair.

She was rather inclined to depreciate herself.

And now she was filled with a thousand fears lest the reconciliation between her brother and her father should be incomplete.

"Lucy, Lucy," she cried.

"I feel as though I were selfish now. I am saved, but it is with that feeling as if I had stepped aside from some danger and left others to encounter it."

"You must not think that. the Marquis of Charlton will not do this thing by halves. I feel certain you may depend upon him. He is not one of those persons who must needs hate where he cannot find love. He will gently and firmly and respectfully decline the proffered alliance, and he will let all the consequences rest upon his own head."

"He is generous, kind, and great."

"Oh! yes, he is all that; but since you do not love him, Agnes, those high qualities go for nothing. We women, I suppose, do not love men because they are great and good. It is some trick of the eyes, some modulation of the voice, something which we cannot explain or define, else we should never see some among us love men who are the reproach of their own sex, and the libel upon the affections of ours. And now good night, good night. Rest in peace. You are free—free as air—and you have escaped the love, the devotion of the Marquis of Charlton. How you should rejoice! Good night, good night. The queen will want me."

"Lucy, I scarcely understand you."

"Not understand me? What have I said?"

"It is not what you say, but how you say it, and your looks."

"My looks? My poor looks? Now, Agnes, don't be critical. I am what I am, but I know I am not an Agnes Bellair. Cruel, critical Agnes! And so good night again."

* * * * * *

How serene and quiet was the old deserted palace of Whitehall while the stirring scenes we have recounted were being enacted at St. James's!

It was a different world entirely.

Not more total and complete had been the change of dynasty in this country than the change of locality of those various court intrigues, scandals, and general events which were to become historical.

Whitehall belonged to the past.

And although St. James's, certainly as regards its antiquity, belonged to a still more distant past, yet it was the modern scene of events which seemed to throw the dim galleries and palatial chambers of Whitehall far behind it.

It was quite a little world that was comprised in those two chambers of the old palace—the one occupied by Bertha, the other by Captain Markham.

He was but young, and the shadows of middle life were as yet far off from resting upon him with their deadening influence.

And so he ought to have slept soundly and hopefully.

He did sleep, but it was the sleep of a disturbed brain, and had only crept over him from sheer bodily exhaustion.

Bertha was in an earlier youth, and she slept the sweet sleep of childhood, encompassed by that feeling of immortality which closes the senses in forgetfulness.

And then the dawn came—first a faint sickly twilight, cold, dim, and gray; then a long pencil of golden colour, making its course slantways into the old dis used apartments, and creeping down the faded gilding of the walls until it sparkled in the eyes of Captain Markham.

He sprang to his feet in a moment.

The morning had come, very bright and very beautiful, but it required a strong effort of his mind and memory to convince himself that within some ten or


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twelve hours a series of events had taken place which had in reality changed the whole current of his existence.

It seemed incredible—too incredible for belief, were it not for the physical tangible evidence about him that such was really the fact.

He could not dispute with himself that there he was, in a stately chamber of old Whitehall, and it was curious how different an aspect that chamber wore now that the sunlight was glinting and glistening upon its walls, and chasing out the murky shadows from its most secret corners, from what it had done when darkness was upon the great city.

The gloomy uncertain look of the place had completely vanished.

The supernatural aspect of the lofty ceiling and the dim mysterious depths of the really large apartment gave way instantly to the first gleam of sunshine.

An apparition in such a place seemed as though it would be as much out of all accord with the locality as a Crusader in chain mail keeping guard in the court of the Horse Guards.

And yet it was in that room that Captain Markham had seen the gathering shadows which had shaped themselves into the form of the Mystery in Scarlet.

Strange power of darkness that it should infect the imagination, being itself but a negative, with so many strange and positive emotions!

"Markham."

That was the voice of Bertha.

In the excessive stillness of the atmosphere of those two rooms the pronunciation of his name, even in the soft accents of that young girl, became a startling event.

"Markham."

"I am here, Bertha."

"There is something glistening."

"No, no. Hush! It is nothing—nothing."

The first impression of Captain Markham was that possibly to Bertha's finer and more delicate senses, even in the daylight, there might be in those rooms some appearance not exactly mortal.

"But look, Markham, there, upon the floor, there is something glistening."

He stood close by the couch from which Bertha had partially raised herself, and, looking in the direction which she indicated, he saw that antique cabinet which had been first ransacked by Norris at the command of the king, and which had afterwards attracted so much of the attention of that apparent apparition which bore so strong a resemblance to Bertha's murdered father.

It was on the floor immediately in front of that cabinet that something certainly lay glistening among the dust of the faded tapestry carpet.

The appearance might be due only to some prismatic reflection, for the sun was struggling to penetrate with many bright and beautiful rays into those rooms.

"Do you see it, Markham?"

"I do, Bertha, but I think it is nothing."

"It is beautiful, and nothing that is nothing can be so bright."

She sprang from the couch, and in a few seconds picked from the carpet four lustrous-looking objects, varying from the size of a pea to a small bean, and which the most superficial observer could not mistake to be anything else but gems of great value.

"Look, Markham, look! These are jewels."

"Yes, and I remember—"

"You remember?" Markham was about to say that he remembered that when the seeming apparition of the night before was busy at that cabinet, he had heard something fall to the floor, which no doubt was now accounted for by the presence of these costly and glittering crystals.

"Yes, Bertha, they are jewels, and no doubt this old building is full of the mysteries, as well as some of the hidden treasures, of a past age."

"They are very beautiful. My father took me once to the old Tower of London, and there he showed me in a gloomy cage some of the regalia of royalty, and there were gems like these, and there was the crown, in particular, with its delicate ermined edge, which I heard him speak of with a kind of speculative wonder if it would fit me."

Markham sighed.

"Bertha," he said, "here is a new day. It dawns upon us with all its wants, its wishes, its hopes, and its fears."

"Yes, Markham. Are we to stay here? or where are we to go?"

"Those are questions I cannot answer until after the hour of half-past six to-night. Do you not remember?"

"Yes, yes, now I do. But there have been so many things trooping, passing through my brain, like some strange procession, that it is little wonder I forget some of them."

"But you remember now?"

"Yes. There was a man here whose destruction was sought by others, and you saved him."

"That was the king, Bertha."

"I know he is called the king, and he is to be grateful. You are to see him, and he is to set the value which in his own mind belongs to his life, and he will make you rich, Markham, and we will go away, away, far away, you and I alone, clinging to each other, and bound together by that union which is sanctified by our mutual knowledge of him who has gone before, and whom hand in hand we shall seek, never to part again."

"Hush! Bertha, hush! Do not give way to these thoughts. You are young, and it is too much for us to say for what destiny Heaven has preserved you."

"I know it."

"You know it, Bertha?"

"Yes. Heaven has preserved me, and I think— young as I am, I think—it is a truth, for it seems to come upon me like an instinct, without reflection—I think when Heaven preserves a life as it has preserved mine it is for some other life, and that life is yours, Markham."

"It is a graceful superstition, if it be one, Bertha. But now rest, dear girl, rest still and in peace. You spoke of our being rich from the king's gratitude. I fancy we are rich already."

"You are rich, Markham?"

"Yes. Look at these gems. They are worth a principality, and yet—"

"Yet what?"

"We can scarcely call them ours. We find them here, and they revert to—to—"

"To whom?"

"To the crown, and so—and so, Bertha—"

"Markham, you speak in riddles, and you hesitate, as though you dared not trust me with a something which is ever hovering on your lips."

"Nay, Bertha. I would trust you with my life, and I would protect you with my life. If for one single moment I hesitate to utter to you all my thoughts, it is because I love you too well to cloud your voting heart with that knowledge the absence of which is peace."

"Then you know something, and you will not trust me. Markham, you are unkind. What did you say? You loved me too well? You do not love me. Say it again, and I will not believe it. Again and again, Markham, I will not believe it. I will not call you Markham. I will call you Captain Weed Markham, or I will call you Weed alone, and you shall never hear anything from me but your strange name of Weed, and you must not think that that Weed takes to me the hue and shape of the fairest flower."

He was forced to kiss her.

Forced to kiss her brow gently and kindly, for there was something about the very badinage of her tone that was exquisitely sad and tender.

"We may have immortal hopes, dear Bertha," he said, "immortal aspirations, but we have mortal wants. Rest here in peace, and I will sally forth upon the vulgar errand of procuring us some breakfast. There is no danger, Bertha, now. You know I have a sort of compact with the king which makes my movements now safe and open. We are here, in fact, by leave and licence of the crown. So all is well. Wait for me but for a little while. I shall soon return."

"Soon, soon," responded Bertha, and she put her hands over her eyes, as though she meant to keep them there, and so shut out all the world, until she could look upon Markham once again.

Immediately contiguous as the old palace of Whitehall was to Westminster, there was no difficulty in Captain Markham procuring some simple refreshments to last them the day.

He had a feverish anxiety to get back quickly, for the dangers he had passed through in companionship with that young girl, and the artless simplicity of her affection for him, and her deep trust in his faith, goodness, and generosity touched him to the heart.

The breakfast was but a simple and frugal meal, but it was cheerfully illuminated by another fire on the hearth, which Captain Markham contrived to light.

And then it would have been a strange sight for any one not knowing who and what they were to see that young girl hanging on the arm of the officer, in his somewhat dilapidated uniform of scarlet and gold, twining her fingers together so us to imprison one of his arms completely, and looking up in his face as they paced to and fro in the old painted galleries and corridors of Whitehall.

And so the day passed, and the dusky shadows of twilight begun again to gather in far off corners, and to people the deserted palace with dim fantastic shapes and vaporous mysteries.


CHAPTER XXVII.

LOST JEWELS.

It was six o'clock. There was a flutter at the heart of Captain Markham.

More than once during the past hour the strong impulse had come over him to place the arm of

Bertha within his, and to whisper in her ear the few brief words, "Let us fly."

It seemed more than once as if an actual voice had whispered such a counsel in his ear. And yet—yet there was a dim vision of something—something that he felt he dared not leave for ever—which cast the whispered counsel aside and urged his stay.

He did love Agnes Bellair. Lying hidden at the bottom of his heart, heaped over and submerged by many other feelings, that love nestled and waited its time.

She was to him a bright particular star, which, he had told himself he might worship from afar, but scarcely dare to approach.

The obscurity of his birth, the perhaps worse than obscurity of his origin, and the apparently high and courtly condition of General Sir Thomas Bellair and his daughter had made the young officer beat back the passion which had taken possession of him when he saw Agnes for the first time at a court ball, and tell himself how madly hopeless it surely was.

But it remained there notwithstanding.

He might love Bertha dearly, but there was just the difference—the difference between affection and love — both beautiful, but yet how different!

And so when that whisper came again and again, almost as though it boomed in the very air about him, that whisper from his own reason which besought him to fly and put no faith in the promises of the king, there ever sprang up in the path of that flight the image of Agnes Bellair, who, like some radiant angel, barred the way.

And now it was six o'clock.

The time had come when his decision must be sharp, short, and complete.

He might yet escape, and leave all the terrible plotting and planning which had taken place in the palace of St. James's that very day on his account to end in nothing.

What so easy as escape?

The river was at hand.

He had ample wealth for ever. Slight as his knowledge was of precious gems, those which he had picked up from the floor of the deserted chamber in Whitehall he felt confident must represent a moderate fortune.

But still he hesitated—hesitated until the last moment, and then he spoke to Bertha hastily, though kindly.

"I must go. Take these jewels, dear sister of my heart. Hide them, preserve them well. There is money, too, in ready coin, for all present wants, and if we do not meet again, remember—remember that I did not leave you in life, and that I do not return to you in the tangible form, of mortal existence because my immortal spirit may be watching and hovering over you."

"No, Markham, you shall not go."

"Hush! It is the best—it is the best. I do believe it is the best. The king cannot seek to harm me.

There can be no motive now, and there shall be less. We will not be fugitives, Bertha, with, perchance, the secret police of Europe upon our track, if we can help it."

"But there is danger."

"There is always danger. Have you not read that it is dangerous to eat, to drink, to sleep?"

"But there is special danger now."

"Nay, not so."

"You give me these jewels, you give me this money, because you fear that you may not return to me. You shall not go, Markham."

"Shall I ask you in vain to let me go?"

"No, Markham, no. I have no power to hold you. If you will go, you go; but I shall never look upon your face again."

"Hush! hush!"

"Have I not seen that king? He is crafty, cold, and cruel. Will he spare you? Markham, Markham, you do not know him even as I know him, who have seen so little of him. He will kill you."

"No, Bertha, no. I will give him reason not to do so, and, moreover, I can and will protect myself. He cannot kill me with his own hands, for he dare not make the attempt, and even a king finds it difficult to persuade others to commit murder at his bidding. So now, dear Bertha, farewell. For a short time, farewell. I am only going to St. James's Palace. It is but over yonder across the park, and I shall soon return. I will say that to the king which will quiet all his fears, and doubtless I shall procure from him some written safe guard which will be our protection throughout the length and breadth of England, and then why should we not be very happy, dear dear sister Bertha?"

"Go. It is but over yonder across the park to St. James's Palace. Go."

"You part with me willingly? Say that you are willing that I should go."

"I cannot say it, Markham; but yet go."

"You will be careful of yourself, you will not stir from here, and you will wait patiently until you hear the clock strike the hour of midnight? If then I do not return, seek the river side and take a boat, and then another and another if needs be, making inquiry as you go for any vessel bound to a foreign port, I mean of course, in Europe, and then Heaven help and guide you!"

"Yes, Markham."

He walked to the door of the room, but she looked so white and woeful that he went back to her and folded her in his arms for a moment.

"Courage! courage!"

Then he was gone.

With her head erect and slightly inclined on one side, listening like some fawn in a forest to catch the slightest sounds near or far, Bertha listened to the retreating footsteps of Captain Markham.


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Then she hastily flung on the few outer garments with which she had left the old house by Westminster Abbey.

"He may go from me," she murmured, "he may leave me to encounter peril—and he knows that it is peril—but I will follow him. It is but over yonder, across the park, to the palace of St. James's. I may not exactly see him, but I shall be nearer to him. Some walls, some doors, may hide him from me, but I shall know that he is there."

The silence and solitude of the immense residence in which she was seemed to be insupportable to Bertha.

The atmosphere of the large chambers seemed to cling around her with a deathlike embrace.
And this was an entirely new feeling as regarded the young girl, for she had been accustomed to solitude in that gloomy mansion at Westminster.

But now it was insupportable to her.

Over and over again she could have told herself, although she did not whisper oven the knowledge of such a secret to her heart, that there would always be solitude and desolation for her now where

Captain Weed Markham was not.

It was not that she dreaded his displeasure that she lingered now before following him on his route to St. James's.

But yet she wished to do so without his knowing that she was so closely on his track, and so desirous to keep him almost within reach of her arms.

She could not yet bring herself to say, "It is because I love you that I cannot bear you to be further from my sight than possible," for the love that had sprung up in her heart for Captain Markham was a new feeling and almost terrified her.

Full of self-accusation likewise was this young girl, for here was her father not many hours dead, and although it would be far from correct to say that for any moment she forgot him, or that her grief for his loss was less severe and poignant, yet unquestionably this new feeling, so beautiful, so sunny, and so mysterious in all its absorbing influence, was like luminous rays in some misty atmosphere, breaking through the gloom around her.

And so she waited until Captain Markham had attained a reasonable distance from old Whitehall, and then, hastily preparing herself as best she might for the open streets, she sought to find her way from the deserted palace.

That was no easy task.

And in the midst of the thick gathering twilight Bertha was more than once despairing of being able to find an exit from the labyrinth of building in which she was.

At length, more by accident than from any purpose, she descended a narrow flight of stairs.

At the foot of those stairs was an ill-fitting small arched door, through the chinks of which there came some rays of artificial light.

The door was bolted within, and then secured by a common hitch, so that Bertha had no difficulty in removing these impediments to her progress.

She found herself then in a paved courtyard, from which a sinuous-looking narrow passage led direct into Whitehall, nearly opposite the Horse Guards.

The artificial light she had seen through the chinks of the ill-fitting door proceeded from a public lamp, one of those old oil inefficiencies that up to a late period did duty in the metropolis.

And now that Bertha was in the open streets of London, and in what was then one of its busiest thoroughfares, she had the nervous feeling that the eyes of every person were upon her.
It was probably the first time she had ever been alone in the streets of that metropolis, then a great one, but which was but the germ of what it has since become.

The repeated cautions of her father never to venture out alone, and his obscure hints of unknown dangers to which she, of all persons, might be specially exposed, had filled her mind with vague alarms.

She was almost surprised to find that no one took any notice of her, and that of all the busy people who passed her without a thought or glance, no one paused to say, "Why are you here? I am a part of the danger of which you have been warned." In fact, it was quite an important step in life for

Bertha to be thus in the open street.

She admired the lamps, wretched as they were.

She thought Whitehall a place of wonderful animation and full of human life, although many a third-rate street of the metropolis at present far exceeds what it then was.

She thought the dimly-lighted shops perfect treasures of art and interest.

The lumbering old coaches, the sedan chairs, and some other nondescript vehicles that moved along the roadway were to her unaccustomed eyes quite objects of attraction. But these things by no means impeded her progress.

She still moved onward—onward with unalterable purpose, like some mariner who fixes his course by the pole-star, although he is by no means unconscious of other luminaries to his right and to his left.

So Bertha crossed the roadway and passed through the old historical Horse Guards, where troopers in the quaint costume of those days held watch and ward.

St. James's Park was very dim and dusky, for, except along the principal Mall which led direct to Buckingham House, and at the Westminster end of Birdcage Walk, there were no lights at all.

The garden in the interior, now so popular and so well frequented, was a dreary swamp.

The old worn railings that surrounded it were covered with green damp and decay.

Boys and dogs had created numerous fissures and openings in them, and the whole place was a miserable piece of dreary neglect, overgrown with water grass and damp weeds of every kind and description.

Light, agile, and looking in the evening shadows like some fair apparition speeding on an errand of mercy, Bertha made her way obliquely across the park towards St. James's.

Near to the entrance by Marlborough House, then still inhabited by members of the family of the hero of Blenheim and Ramilies, Bertha fancied that she saw a figure that resembled Captain Markham.

She could not mistake him.

It was quite impossible that there could be another like unto him.

So she told herself.

And in the cloudiest and darkest night, if there were but light enough, natural or artificial, to cast his faintest shadow upon wall, tree, or earth, she must have known it.

Bertha had walked, or rather flown, across the park with such rapidity that her heart was beating faster than its wont when she reached the Ambassadors' Court.

In the deep shadow of one side of the court a sentinel was pacing lazily to and fro, and Bertha dreaded to attract the attention of this man; so she shrank so closely into a doorway that she quite made part and parcel of the darkness that was there to be found.

From that sheltered nook she became conscious of a soft rain that had begun to fall, and she held out her hand to feel the shower.

(To be continued in our next.)

Published @ COVE

August 2021