Mrs. Griggs was hanged for murder. Her lodger, Mr. Anglesey, was found strangled, sitting bolt upright at the breakfast table, the ashes of what appeared to have once been a cigar in his scorched hand. He had been dead several months. Sir Jonathan Carter, Gentleman of the King’s Bedchamber, had the unpleasant task of testifying at her trial.

The Baron Tattson still labors in his laboratory with young James, more a colleague than a servant now, ever at his side. They are close to perfecting a vaccine against the contagion, and though that will not save the millions already infected, at least it promises hope for the future. Tonight, before you sleep, pray for their success.
There was no such hope, alas, for the Prince. Upon hearing of Bradley’s death, he ordered the crew of the yacht ashore and managed to maneuver the ship out to sea with only himself on board. The Britannia was last seen heading south, with flames shooting up its mainsail, and a cloud of smoke shrouding its mast.

Mister MacIntyre’s book was brought out by his widow. Critics dismissed the effort’s old-fashioned style, its genteel phrasing and arcane diction. “While his later work was not well-received,” one eulogy stated, “he remained a much sought-after and cherished guest to an ever-widening circle of admirers.” The rumored circumstances surrounding the author’s death, I might take this opportunity to add, have been greatly exaggerated.
On an early spring morning, in the north of England, one year to the day from the time our tale began, Phineas Hardheart attended the auction at which the contents of Choir Castle were sold off. There being no legitimate descendant to the late Earl, the title had been declared extinct, and creditors left to pick over the remains.
There was precious little for those owed money to seize, though. Hardheart, moved (by cheap sentiment, he scolded himself, but moved nonetheless), paid six shillings for a well worn riding crop. Carrying off his purchase, he gave one last look over the crumbling expanse of the castle and its surrounding, still brown, unforthcoming land. For this, there had been no buyers. The place would be subdivided, no doubt. The age of the great houses was passing, had passed. He noted a familiar figure, the profile of Hepzibah Schlierbeck, looking out of place in her elegant black dress and city shoes, standing with a lean old man whose hair was lifted by the bitter wind as he too surveyed the landscape. The moneylenderess recognized Hardheart, and walked over to greet him.
“I fear you made a bad investment, Madame Schlierbeck,” he said. “Are you one of the creditors?”
“No,” she smiled. “I just settled with the estate. And it is Miss Schlierbeck, if you please.”
“I beg your pardon. You say you settled?”
“Yes. I dropped my claims and received the Earl’s box, in compensation.”
“His box?”
“At Royal Ascot. Now that the prohibitions against my people have been lifted, I can go where I want. I am right next to where the new King sits.”
“Ah, you enjoy horse racing, then?”
“Horse racing?” she frowned, “Is that what they do there?”
Returning to her father, Hepzibah made a mental note to study up on the subject, so as to better engage the King in conversation. He was very good-looking, a bachelor, remarkably free of prejudice, and just a little younger than herself, no doubt in need of a helping hand, what with all the difficulties he faced. Walking over the muddy field, she stared up into the new sun, and adopted a regal bearing.

THE END

 

This novel is dedicated to David Rayfiel.