The Green Mummy, by Fergus Hume

Chapter 7

The Captain of the Diver

The day after the inquest, Sidney Bolton’s body was buried in Gartley churchyard. Owing to the nature of the death, and the publicity given to the murder by the press, a great concourse of people assembled to witness the interment, and there was an impressive silence when the corpse was committed to the grave. Afterwards, as was natural, much discussion followed on the verdict at the inquest. It was the common opinion that the jury could have brought in no other verdict, considering the nature of the evidence supplied; but many people declared that Captain Hervey of The Diver should have been called. If the deceased had enemies, said these wiseacres, it was probable that he would have talked about them to the skipper. But they forgot that the witnesses called at the inquest, including the mother of the dead man, had insisted that Bolton had no enemies, so it is difficult to see what they expected Captain Hervey to say.

After the funeral, the journals made but few remarks about the mystery. Every now and then it was hinted that a clue had been found, and that the police would sooner or later track down the criminal. But all this loose chatter came to nothing, and as the days went by, the public — in London, at all events — lost interest in the case. The enterprising weekly paper that had offered the furnished house and the life income to the person who found the assassin received an intimation from the Government that such a lottery could not be allowed. The paper, therefore, returned to Limericks, and the amateur detectives, like so many Othellos, found their occupation gone. Then a political crisis took place in the far East, and the fickle public relegated the murder of Bolton to the list of undiscovered crimes. Even the Scotland Yard detectives, failing to find a clue, lost interest in the matter, and it seemed as though the mystery of Bolton’s death would not be solved until the Day of Judgment.

In the village, however, people still continued to be keenly interested, since Bolton was one of themselves, and, moreover, Widow Anne kept up a perpetual outcry about her murdered boy. She had lost the small weekly sum which Sidney had allowed her out of his wages, so the neighbors, the gentry of the surrounding country, and the officers at the Fort sent her ample washing to do. Widow Anne in a few weeks had quite a large business, considering the size of the village, and philosophically observed to a neighbor that “It was an ill wind which blew no one any good,” adding also that Sidney was more good to her dead than alive. But even in Gartley the villagers grew weary of discussing a mystery which could never be solved, and so the case became rarely talked about. In these days of bustle and worry and competition, it is wonderful how people forget even important events. If a blue sun arose to lighten the world instead of a yellow one, after nine days of wonder, man would settle down quite comfortably to a cerulean existence. Such is the wonderful adaptability of humanity.

Professor Braddock was less forgetful, as he always bore in mind the loss of his mummy, and constantly thought of schemes whereby he could trap the assassin of his late secretary. Not that he cared for the dead in any way, save from a strictly business point of view, but the capture of the criminal meant the restitution of the mummy, and — as Braddock told everyone with whom he came in contact — he was determined to regain possession of his treasure. He went himself to the Sailor’s Rest, and drove the landlord and his servants wild by asking tart questions and storming when a satisfactory answer could not be supplied. Quass was glad when he saw the plump back of the cross little man, who so pertinaciously followed what everyone else had abandoned.

“Life was too short,” grumbled Quass, “to be bothered in that way.”

The wooing of Archie and Lucy went on smoothly, and the Professor showed no sign of wishing to break the engagement. But Hope, as he confided to Lucy, was somewhat worried, as his pauper uncle, on an insufficient borrowed capital, had begun to speculate in South African mines, and it was probable that he would lose all his money. In that case Hope fancied he would be once more called upon to make good the avuncular loss, and so the marriage would have to be postponed. But it so happened that the pauper uncle made some lucky speculative shots and acquired money, which he promptly reinvested in new mines of the wildcat description. Still, for the moment all was well, and the lovers had a few halcyon days of peace and happiness.

Then came a bolt from the blue in the person of Captain Hervey, who called a fortnight after the funeral to see the Professor. The skipper was a tall, slim man, lean as a fasting friar, and hard as nails, with closely clipped red hair, mustache of the same aggressive hue, and an American goatee. He spoke with a Yankee accent, and in a truculent manner, sufficiently annoying to the fiery Professor. When he met Braddock in the museum, the two became enemies at the first glance, and because both were bad-tempered and obstinate, took an instant dislike to one another. Like did not draw to like in this instance.

“What do you want to see me about?” asked Braddock crossly. He had been summoned by Cockatoo from the perusal of a new papyrus to see his visitor, and consequently was not in the best of tempers.

“I’ve jes’ blew in fur a trifle of chin-music,” replied Hervey with an emphatic U.S.A. accent.

“I’m busy: get out,” was the uncomplimentary reply.

Hervey took a chair and, stretching his lengthy legs, produced a black cheroot, as long and lean as himself.

“If you were in the States, Professor, I’d draw a bead on you for that style of lingo. I’m not taking any. See!” and he lighted up.

“You’re the captain of ‘The Diver’?”

“That’s so; I was, that is. Now, I’ve shifted to a dandy wind-jammer of sorts that can run rings round the old barky. I surmise I’m off for the South Seas, pearl-fishing, in three months. I’ll take that Kanaka along with me, if y’like, Professor,” and he cast a side glance at Cockatoo, who was squatting on his hams as usual, polishing a blue enameled jar from a Theban tomb.

“I require the services of the man,” said Braddock stiffly. “As to you, sir: you’ve been paid for your business in connection with Bolton’s passage and the shipment of my mummy, so there is no more to be said.”

“Heaps more! heaps, you bet,” remarked the man of the sea placidly, and controlling a temper which in less civilized parts would have led him to wipe the floor with the plump scientist. “My owners were paid fur that racket: not me. No, sir. So I’ve paddled into this port to see if I can rake in a few dollars on my own.”

“I’ve no dollars to give you — in charity, that is.”

“Huh! An’ who asked charity, you bald-headed jelly-bag?”

Braddock grew scarlet with fury. “If you speak to me like that, you ruffian, I’ll throw you out.”

“What? — you?”

“Yes, me,” and the Professor stood on tip-toe, like the bantam he was.

“You make me smile, and likewise tired,” murmured Hervey, admiring the little man’s pluck. “See here, Professor, touching that mummy?”

“My mummy: my green mummy. What about it?” Braddock rose to the fly thrown by this skilful angler.

“That’s so. What will you shell out if I pass along that corpse?”

“Ah!” The Professor again stood on tip-toe, gasping and purple in the face. He almost squeaked in the extremity of his anger. “I knew it.”

“Knew what?” demanded the skipper, genuinely surprised.

“I knew that you had stolen my mummy. Yes, you needn’t deny it. Bolton, like the silly fool he was, told you how valuable the mummy was, and you strangled the poor devil to get my property.”

“Go slow,” said the captain, in no wise perturbed by this accusation. “I would have you remember that at the inquest it was stated that the window was locked and the door was open. How then could I waltz into that blamed hotel and arrange for a funeral? ‘Sides, I guess shooting is mor’n my line than garrotting. I leave that to the East Coast Yellow–Stomachs.”

Braddock sat down and wiped his face. He saw plainly enough that he had not a leg to stand on, as Hervey was plainly innocent.

“‘Sides,” went on the skipper, chewing his cheroot, “I guess if I’d wanted that old corpse of yours, I’d have yanked Bolton overside, and set down the accident to bad weather. Better fur me to loot the case aboard than to make a fool of myself ashore. No, sir, H.H. don’t run ‘is own perticler private circus in that blamed way.”

“H.H. Who the devil is H.H.?”

“Me, you bet. Hiram Hervey, citizen of the U.S.A. Nantucket neighborhood for home life. And see, don’t you get m’hair riz, or I’ll scalp.”

“You can’t scalp me,” chuckled Braddock, passing his hand over a very bald head. “See here, what do you want?”

“Name a price and I’ll float round to get back your verdant corpse.”

“I thought you were going to the South Seas?”

“In three months, pearl-fishing. Lots of time, I reckon, to run this old circus I want you to finance.”

“Have you any suspicions?”

“No, ‘sept I don’t believe in that window business.”

“What do you mean?” Braddock sat upright.

“Well,” drawled the Yankee, “y’see, I interviewed the gal as told that perticler lie in court.”

“Eliza Flight. Was it a lie she told?”

“Well, not exactly. The window was snibbed, but that was done after the chap who sent your pal to Kingdom Come had got out.”

“Do you mean to say that the window was locked from the outside?” asked Braddock, and then, when Hervey nodded, he exclaimed “Impossible!”

“Narry an impossibility, you bet. The chap who engineered the circus was all-fired smart. The snib was an old one, and he yanked a piece of string round it, and passed the string through the crack between the upper and lower sash of the window. When outside he pulled, and the snib slid into place. But he left the string on the ground outside. I picked it up nex’ day and guessed the racket he’d been on. I tried the same business and brought off the deal.”

“It sounds wonderful and yet impossible,” cried Braddock, rubbing his bald head and walking excitedly to and fro. “See here, I’ll come along with you and see how it’s done.”

“You bet you won’t, unless you shell out. See here”— Hervey leaned forward —“from that window business it’s plain that no one inside the shanty corpsed your pal. The chap as did it entered and left by the window, and made tracks with that old corp you want. Now you pass along five hundred pounds — that’s English currency, I reckon — and I’ll smell round for the robber.”

“And where do you think I can obtain five hundred pounds?” asked the Professor very dryly.

“Well, I guess if that blamed corpse is worth it, you’ll be willing to trade. Y’don’t live in this shanty for nothing.”

“My good friend, I have enough to live on, and obtain this house at a small rent on account of its isolation. But I can no more find the sum of five hundred pounds than fly.”

Hervey rose and straightened his legs.

“Then I guess I’d best be getting back to Pierside.”

“One moment, sir. Did anything happen on the voyage? — did Bolton say anything likely to lead you to suppose that he was in danger of being robbed and murdered?”

“No,” said the skipper musingly, and pulling his goatee. “He told me that he had secured the old corpse, and was bringing it home to you. I didn’t talk much to Bolton; he wasn’t my style.”

“Have you any idea who killed him?”

“No, I ain’t.”

“Then how do you propose to find the criminal who has the mummy?”

“You give me five hundred pounds and see,” said Hervey coolly.

“I haven’t got the money.”

“Then I reckon you don’t get the corpse. So long,” and the skipper strolled towards the door. Braddock followed him.

“You have a clue?”

“No, I’ve got nothing; not even that five hundred pounds you make such a fuss over. It’s a wasted day with H.H., I surmise. Wait!” He scribbled on a card and flung it across the room. “That’s my Pierside address if you should change your blamed mind.”

The Professor picked up the card. “The Sailor’s Rest! What, are you stopping there?” Then, when Hervey nodded, he cried violently, “Why, I believe you have a clue, and stop at the hotel to follow it up.”

“Maybe I do and maybe I don’t,” retorted the captain, opening the door with a jerk; “anyhow, I don’t hunt for that corpse without the dollars.”

When Hiram Hervey departed, the Professor raged up and down the room so violently that Cockatoo was cowed by his anger. Apparently this American skipper knew of something which might lead to the discovery of the assassin and incidentally to the restoration of the green mummy to its rightful owner. But he would not make a move unless he was paid five hundred pounds, and Braddock did not know where to procure that amount. Having long since made himself acquainted with Hope’s financial condition, he knew well that there was no chance of getting a second check in that quarter. Of course there was Random, whom he had heard casually had returned from his yachting cruise, and was now back again at the Fort. But Random was in love with Lucy, and would probably only give or lend the money on condition that the Professor helped him with his wooing. In that case, since Lucy was engaged to Hope, there would be some difficulty in altering present conditions. But having arrived at this point of his somewhat angry meditations, Braddock sent Cockatoo with a message to his step-daughter, saying that he wished to see her.

“I’ll see if she really loves Hope,” thought the Professor, rubbing his plump hands. “If she doesn’t, there may be a chance of her throwing him over to become Lady Random. Then I can get the money. And indeed,” soliloquized the Professor virtuously, “I must point out to her that it is wrong of her to make a poor marriage, when she can gain a wealthy husband. I will only be doing my duty by my dear dead wife, by preventing her wedding poverty. But girls are so obstinate, and Lucy is a thorough girl.”

His amiable anxiety on behalf of Miss Kendal was only cut short by the entrance of the young lady herself. Professor Braddock then showed his hand too plainly by evincing a strong wish to conciliate her in every way. He procured her a seat: he asked after her health: he told her that she was growing prettier every day, and in all ways behaved so unlike his usual self, that Lucy became alarmed and thought that he had been drinking.

“Why have you sent for me?” she asked, anxious to come to the point.

“Aha!” Braddock put his venerable head on one side like a roguish bird and smiled in an infantine manner. “I have good news for you.”

“About the mummy?” she demanded innocently.

“No, about flesh and blood, which you prefer. Sir Frank Random has arrived back at the Fort. There!”

“I know that,” was Miss Kendal’s unexpected reply. “His yacht came to Pierside on the same afternoon as The Diver arrived.”

“Oh, indeed!” said the Professor, struck by the coincidence, and with a stare. “How do you know?”

“Archie met Sir Frank the other day, and learned as much.”

“What?” Braddock struck a tragic attitude. “Do you mean to say that those two young men speak to one another?”

“Yes. Why not? They are friends.”

“Oh!” Braddock became roguish again. “I fancied they were lovers of a certain young lady who is in this room.”

By this time Lucy was beginning to guess what her step-father was aiming at, and grew correspondingly angry.

“Archie is my sole lover now,” she remarked stiffly. “Sir Frank knows that we are engaged and is quite ready to be the friend of us both.”

“And he calls that love. Idiot!” cried the Professor, much disgusted. “But I would point out to you, Lucy — and I do so because of my deep affection for you, dear child — that Sir Frank is wealthy.”

“So is Archie — in my love.”

“Nonsense! nonsense! That is mere foolish romance, He has no money.”

“You should not say that. Archie had money to the extent of one thousand pounds, which he gave you.”

“One thousand pounds: a mere nothing. Consider, Lucy, that if you marry Random you will have a title.”

Miss Kendal, whose patience was getting exhausted, stamped a very neat boot.

“I don’t know why you talk in this way, father.”

“I wish to see you happy.”

“Then your wish is granted: you do see me happy. But I won’t be happy long if you keep bothering me to marry a man I don’t care two straws about. I am going to be Mrs. Hope, so there.”

“My dear child,” said the Professor, who always became paternal when most obstinate, “I have reason to believe that the green mummy can be discovered and poor Sidney’s death avenged if a reward of five hundred pounds is offered. If Hope can give me that money —”

“He will not: I shall not allow him to. He has lost too much already.”

“In that case I must apply to Sir Frank Random.”

“Well, apply,” she snapped, being decidedly angry; “it’s none of my business. I don’t want to hear anything about it.”

“It is your business, miss,” cried Braddock, growing angry in his turn and becoming very pink; “you know that only by getting you to marry Random can I procure the money.”

“Oh!” said Lucy coldly. “So this is why you sent for me. Now, father, I have had enough of this. You gave your consent to Archie being engaged to me in exchange for one thousand pounds. As I love him I shall abide by the word you gave. If I had not loved him I should have refused to marry him. You understand?”

“I understand that I have a very obstinate girl to deal with. You shall marry as I choose.”

“I shall do nothing of the sort. You have no right to dictate my choice of a husband.”

“No right, when I am your father?”

“You are not my father: merely my step-father — merely a relation by marriage. I am of age. I can do as I like, and intend to.”

“But, Lucy,” implored Braddock, changing his tune, “think.”

“I have thought. I marry Archie.”

“But he is poor and Random is rich.”

“I don’t care. I love Archie and I don’t love Frank.”

“Would you have me lose the mummy for ever?”

“Yes, I would, if my misery is to be the price of its restoration. Why should I sell myself to a man I care nothing about, just because you want a musty, fusty old corpse? Now I am going.” Lucy walked to the door. “I shan’t listen to another word. And if you bother me again, I shall marry Archie at once and leave the house.”

“I can make you leave it in any case, you ungrateful girl,” bellowed Braddock, who was purple with rage, never having a very good temper at the best of times. “Look what I have done for you!”

Miss Kendal could have pointed out that her step-father had done nothing save attend to himself. But she disdained such an argument, and without another word opened the door and walked out. Almost immediately afterwards Cockatoo entered, much to the relief of the Professor, who relieved his feelings by kicking the unfortunate Kanaka. Then he sat down again to consider ways and means of obtaining the necessary mummy and still more necessary money.

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