The Green Mummy, by Fergus Hume

Chapter 16

The Manuscript Again

But the Professor was not going to let Captain Hervey escape without giving him full information. Before the Yankee skipper could reach the front door, Braddock was at his heels, gasping and blowing like a grampus.

“Come back, come back. Tell me all.”

“I reckon not,” rejoined the mariner, removing Braddock’s grip. “You ain’t the one to give the money. I’ll go to the Don, or to Inspector Date of Pierside.”

“But Sir Frank must be innocent,” insisted Braddock.

“He’s got to prove it,” was the dry response. “Let me go.”

“No. You must tell me on what grounds —”

“Oh, the devil take you!” said Hervey hastily, and sat down on one of the hall chairs. “It’s this way, since you won’t let me skip until I tell you. This almighty aristocrat came to Pierside on the same afternoon as I cast anchor. While Bolton was on board, he looked in to have a yarn of sorts.”

“What about?”

“Now, how in creation should I know?” snapped the skipper. “I wasn’t on hand, as I’d enough to do with unloading cargo. But his lordship went with Bolton to the state-room, and they talked for half an hour. When they came out, I saw that his lordship had his hair riz, and heard him saying things to Bolton.”

“What sort of things?”

“Well, for one, he said, ‘You’ll repent of this,’ and then again, ‘Your life isn’t safe while you keep it.’”

“Meaning the mummy?”

“I reckon that’s so, unless I am mistaken,” said Hervey serenely.

“Why didn’t you go to the police with this information?”

“Me? Not much. Why, I saw no way of making dollars. And then, again, I did not think of putting things together, until I found that his lorship —”

“Meaning Sir Frank,” interpolated the Professor, frowning.

“I’m talking Queen’s, or King’s, or Republican lingo, I guess, and I do mean his lorship,” said the skipper dryly —“until I found that his lorship had been in the public-house where the crime was committed.”

“The Sailor’s Rest? When did he go there?”

“In the evening. After his talk with Bolton, and after a row — as they both seemed to have their hair off — he skipped over the side and went back to his yacht, which wasn’t far away. Bolton took his blamed mummy ashore and got fixed at the Sailor’s Rest. I gathered afterwards, from the second mate of The Diver (which ain’t my ship now), that his lorship came into the hotel and had a drink. Afterwards my second mate saw him talking to Bolton through the window.”

“In the same place as the woman talked?” questioned the Professor.

“That’s so, only it was later in the evening that the woman came along to give chin-music through the window. I am bound to say,” added the captain generously, “that no one I can place my hand on saw his lorship loafing about the hotel after dark. But what of that? He may have laid his plans, and arranged for the corpse to be found later, in that blamed packing case.”

“Is this all your evidence?”

“It’s enough, I guess.”

“Not to procure a warrant.”

“Why, a man in the States would be electrocuted on half the evidence.”

“I daresay,” retorted the little man with contempt, “but we are in a land where justice of the purest prevails. All your evidence is circumstantial. It proves nothing.”

The captain was considerably nettled.

“I calculate that it proves Sir Frank wanted the mummy, else why did he come on board my ship to see your infernal assistant. The words he used showed that he was warning Bolton how he’d do for him. And then he talked through the window, and was in the public-house, which ain’t a place for an almighty aristocrat to shelter in. I guess he’s the man wanted by the police. Why,” added Hervey, warming to his tale, “he’d a slap-up yacht laying near the blamed hotel, and could easily ship the corpse, after slipping it through the window. When he got tired of it, and looted the emeralds, he took it by boat, below the Fort, to Mrs. Jasher’s garden and left it there, so as to pull the wool over the eyes of the police. It’s as clear as mud to me. You search his lorship’s shanty, and you’ll find the emeralds.”

“It is strange,” muttered Braddock unwillingly.

“Strange, but not true,” said a voice from the head of the stairs, and young Hope came down leisurely, with a pale face, but a very determined air. “Random is absolutely innocent.”

“How do you know?” demanded the skipper contemptuously.

“Because he is an English gentleman and my very good friend.”

“Huh! I guess that defense won’t save him from being lynched.”

Meanwhile Braddock was looking irritably at Archie.

“You’ve been listening to a private conversation, sir. How dare you listen?”

“If you hold private conversations at the top of your voices in the hall, you must be expected to be listened to,” said Archie coolly. “I plead guilty, and I am not sorry.”

“When did you come?”

“In time to hear all that Captain Hervey has explained. I was chatting with Lucy, and had just left her, when I heard your loud voices.”

“Has Lucy heard anything?”

“No. She is busy in her room. But I’ll tell her,” Hope turned to mount the stairs; “she likes Random, and will no more believe him guilty than I do at this present moment.”

“Stop!” cried Braddock, flying forward to pull Hope back, as he placed his foot on the first stair. “Tell Lucy nothing just now. We must go to the Fort, you — and I, to see Random. Hervey, you come also, and then you can accuse Sir Frank to his face.”

“If he dares to do it!” said Archie, who looked and felt indignant.

“Oh, I’ll accuse him right enough when the time comes,” said Hervey in his coolest manner, “but the time isn’t now. Savy! I am going to see the Don first and make sure of this reward.”

“Faugh!” cried Hope with disgust, “Blood-money!”

“What of that? Ifs a man is a murderer he should be lynched.”

“My friend, Sir Frank Random, is no murderer.”

“He’s got to prove, that, as I said before,” rejoined the Yankee in a calm way, and strolled to the door. “So-long, gents both. I’ll light out for the Warrior Inn and play my cards. And I may tell you,” he added, pausing at the door, which he opened, “that I haven’t got that blamed wind-jammer, so need money to hold out until another steamer comes along. One hundred pounds English currency will just fill the bill. So now you know the lay I’m on. So-long,” and he walked quietly out of the house, leaving Archie and Braddock looking at one another with pale faces. The assurance of Hervey surprised and horrified them. Still, they could not believe that Sir Frank Random had been guilty of so brutal a crime.

“For one thing,” said Hope after a pause, “Random did not know where the emeralds were to be found, or even that they existed.”

“I understood that he did know,” said Braddock reluctantly. “In my hearing, and in your own, you heard Don Pedro state that he had related the story of the manuscript to Random.”

“You forget that I learned about the emeralds at the same time,” said Hope quietly. “Yet this Yankee skipper does not accuse me. The knowledge of the emeralds came to Random’s ears and to mine long after the crime was committed. To have a motive for killing Bolton and stealing the emeralds, Random would have had to know when he arrived in England.”

“And why should he have not known?” asked the Professor, biting his lip vexedly. “I don’t want to accuse Random, or even to doubt him, as he is a very good fellow, even though he refused to assist me with money when I desired a reward to be offered. All the same, he met Don Pedro in Genoa, and it is just possible that the man told him of the jewels buried with the mummy.”

Archie shook his head.

“I doubt that,” said he thoughtfully. “Random was as astonished as the rest of us, when Don Pedro told his Arabian Night story. However, the point can be easily settled by sending for Random. I daresay he is at the Fort.”

“I shall send Cockatoo for him at once,” said the Professor quickly, and walked into the museum to instruct the Kanaka. Archie remained where he was, and seated himself on a chair, with folded arms and knitted brows. It was incredible that an English gentleman with a stainless name and such a well-known soldier should commit so terrible a crime. And the matter of Hervey’s accusation was complicated by the fact — of which Hervey was ignorant — that Don Pedro was willing that Random should become his son-inlaw. Hope wondered what the fiery, proud Peruvian would say when he heard his friend denounced. His reflections on this point were cut short by the return of the Professor, who appeared at the door of the museum dismissing Cockatoo. When the Kanaka took his departure, Braddock beckoned to the young man.

“There is no reason why we should talk in the hall, and let the whole house know of this new difficulty,” he said in a testy manner. “Come in here.”

Hope entered and looked with ill-concealed repugnance at the uncanny shape of the green mummy, which was lying on a long table. He examined the portions where the swathings had been cut with some sharp instrument, to reveal the dry, bony hands, which formerly had held the costly jewels. The face was invisible and covered with a mask of dull beaten gold. Formerly the eyes had been jeweled, but these last were now absent. He pointed out the mask to the Professor, who was hovering over the weird dead with a large magnifying-glass.

“It is strange,” said Hope earnestly, “that the mask of gold was not stolen also, since it is so valuable.”

“Unless melted down, the mask could be traced,” said Braddock after a pause. “The jewels, according to Don Pedro, are of immense value, and so could have been got rid of easily. Random was satisfied with those.”

“Don’t talk of him in that way, as though his guilt was certain,” said Hope, wincing.

“Well, you must admit that the evidence against him is strong.”

“But purely circumstantial.”

“Circumstantial evidence has hanged many an innocent man before now. Humph!” said Braddock uneasily, “I hope it won’t hang our friend. However, we shall hear what he has to say. I have sent Cockatoo to the Fort to bring him here at once. If Random is absent, Cockatoo is to leave a note in his room, on the writing-table.”

“Would it not have been better to have told Cockatoo to give the note to Random’s servant?”

“I think not,” responded Braddock dryly. “Random’s servant is certainly one of the most stupid men in the entire army. He would probably forget to give him the note, and as it is important that we should see Random at once, it is better that he should find it placed personally on his writing-table by Cockatoo, upon whom I can depend.”

Archie abandoned the argument, as it really mattered very little. He took up another line of conversation.

“I expect if the criminal tries to dispose of the emeralds he will be caught,” said he: “such large jewels are too noticeable to escape comment.”

“Humph! It depends upon the cleverness of the thief,” said the Professor, who was more taken up with the mummy than with the conversation, “He might have the jewels cut into smaller stones, or he might go to India and dispose of them to some Rajah, who would certainly say nothing. I don’t know how criminals act myself, as I have never studied their methods. But I hope that the clue you mention will be hit upon, if only for Random’s sake.”

“I don’t believe for one moment that Random is in danger,” said Archie, “and, if he is, I shall turn detective myself.”

“I wish you joy,” replied Braddock, bending over the mummy. “Look, Hope, at the wonderful color of this wool. There are some arts we have lost completely — dyeing of this surprising beauty is one. Humph!” mused the archaeologist, “I wonder why this particular mummy is dyed green, or rather why it is wrapped in green bandages. Yellow was the royal color of the ancient Peruvian monarchs. Vicuna wool dyed yellow. What do you think, Hope? It is strange.”

Archie shrugged his shoulders.

“I can say nothing, because I know nothing,” he said sharply. “All I do know is that I wish this precious mummy had never been brought here. It has caused trouble ever since its arrival.”

“Well,” said Braddock, surveying the dead with some disfavor, “I must say that I shall be glad to see the last of it myself. I know now all that I wanted to know! Humph! I wonder if Don Pedro will allow me to strip the mummy? Of course! It is mine not his. I shall unswathe it entirely,” and Braddock was about to lay sacrilegious hands on the dead, when Cockatoo entered breathlessly. He had been so quick that he must have run to the Fort and back again.

“I knock at door,” said the Kanaka, delivering his message, “and I hear no voice. I go in and find no one, so I put the letter on the table. I come down and ask, and a soldier tells me, sir, his master is coming back in half an hour.”

“You should have waited,” said Braddock, waving Cockatoo aside. “Come along with me to the Fort, Hope.”

“But Random will come here as soon as he returns.”

“Very likely, but I can’t wait. I am anxious to hear what he has to say in his defense. Come, Cockatoo, my coat, my hat, my gloves. Stir yourself, you scoundrel!”

Archie was not unwilling to go, since he was anxious also to hear what Random would say to the absurd accusation brought against him by the Yankee. In a few minutes the two men were walking smartly down the road through the village, the Professor striving to keep up with Hope’s longer legs by trotting as hard as he could. Halfway down the village they met a trap, and in it Captain Hervey being driven to the Jessum railway station.

“Have you seen Don Pedro?” asked the Professor, stopping the vehicle.

“I reckon not,” answered Hervey stolidly. “He’s gone into Pierside to see the police. I’m off there also.”

“You had better come with us,” said Archie sternly; —“we are going to see Sir Frank Random.”

“Give him my respects,” said the skipper cold-bloodedly, “and say that he’s worth one hundred pounds to me,” he waved his hand and the trap moved away, but he looked back with a wry smile. “Say I’ll square the matter for double the money and command of his yacht.”

Braddock and Archie looked after the trap in disgust.

“What a scoundrel the man is!” said the Professor pettishly; “he’d sell his father for what he could get.”

“It shows how much his word is to be depended upon. I expect this accusation of Random is a put-up job.”

“I hope so, for Random’s sake,” said Braddock, trotting briskly along.

In a short time they arrived at the Fort and were informed that Sir Frank had not yet returned, but was expected back every moment. In the meanwhile, as Braddock and Hope were both extremely well known, they were shown into Random’s quarters, which were on the first floor. When the soldier-servant retired and the door was closed, Hope seated himself near the window, while Braddock trotted round, looking into things.

“It’s a dog kennel,” said the Professor. “I told Random that.”

“Perhaps we should have waited him in the mess,” suggested Archie.

“No! no! no! We couldn’t talk there, with a lot of silly young fools hanging about. I told Random that I would never enter the mess, so he invited me to come always to his quarters. He was in love with Lucy then,” chuckled the Professor, “and nothing was too good for me.”

“Not even the dog kennel,” said Hope dryly, for the Professor’s chatter was so rude as to be quite annoying.

“Pooh! pooh! pooh! Random doesn’t mind a joke. You, Hope, have no sense of humor. Your name is Scotch also. I believe you are a Caledonian.”

“I am nothing of the sort. I was born on this side of the border.”

“You might have been born at the North Pole for all I care,” said the little man politely. “I don’t like artists: they are usually silly. I wish Lucy had married a man of science. Now don’t talk rubbish. I know what you are going to say.”

“Well,” said Archie, humoring him, “what am I going to say?”

This non-plussed the irritable savant.

“Hum! Hum! hum! I don’t know and don’t care. Pouf! How hot this room is! What a number of books of travel Random has!” Braddock was now at the bookcase, which consisted of shelves swung by cords against the wall.

“Random travels a great deal,” Archie reminded him.

“Quite so: quite so. Wastes his money on that silly yacht. But he hasn’t traveled in South America. I expect he’s going there. Come here, Hope, and see the many, many books about Peru and Chili and Brazil. There must be a dozen, and all library books too.”

Archie sauntered towards the shelves.

“I expect Random is getting up the subject of South America, so as to talk to Donna Inez.”

“Probably! probably!” snapped Braddock, pulling several of the books out of place. “Why, there isn’t a — Ah, dear me! What a catastrophe!”

He might well say so, for in his desire to examine the books, they all tipped off the shelves and lay in a disorderly heap on the floor. Hope began to pick them up and replace them, and so did the author of the mischief. Among the books were several papers scribbled with notes, and Braddock bundled these all in a heap.. Shortly, he caught sight of the writing on one.

“Hullo! Latin,” said he, and read a line or two. “Oh!” he gasped, “Hope! Hope! The manuscript of Don Pedro!”

“Impossible!”

Archie rose and stared at the discolored paper.

“Sorry to have kept you,” said Random, entering at this moment.

“You villain!” shouted Braddock furiously, “so you are guilty after all?”

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:42