Professor Braddock was usually the most methodical of men, and timed his life by the clock and the almanac. He rose at seven, summer and winter, to partake of a hearty breakfast, which served him until dinner came at five thirty. Braddock dined at this unusual hour — save when there was company — as he did not eat any luncheon and scorned the very idea of afternoon tea. Two meals a day, he maintained, was enough for any man who led a sedentary life, as too much food was apt to clog the wheels of the intellect. He usually worked in his museum — if the indulgence of his hobby could be called work — from nine until four, after which hour he took a short walk in the garden or through the village. On finishing his dinner he would glance over some scientific publication, or perhaps, by way of recreation, play a game or two of patience; but at seven he invariably retired into his own rooms to renew work. Retirement to bed took place at midnight, so it can be guessed that the Professor got through an enormous quantity of work during the year. A more methodical man, or a more industrious man did not exist.
But on occasions even this enthusiast wearied of his hobby, and of the year’s routine. A longing to see brother scientists of his own way of thinking would seize him, and he would abruptly depart for London, to occupy quiet lodgings, and indulge in intercourse with his fellow-men. Braddock rarely gave early intimation of his urban nostalgia. At breakfast he would suddenly announce that the fit took him to go to London, and he would drive to Jessum along with Cockatoo to catch the ten o’clock train to London. Sometimes he sent the Kanaka back; at other times he would take him to town; but whether Cockatoo remained or departed, the museum was always locked up lest it should be profaned by the servants of the house. As a matter of fact, Braddock need not have been afraid, for Lucy — knowing her step-father’s whims and violent temper — took care that the sanctity of the place should remain inviolate.
Sometimes the Professor came back in a couple of days; at times his absence would extend to a week; and on two or three occasions he remained absent for a fortnight. But whenever he returned, he said very little about his doings to Lucy, perhaps deeming that dry scientific details would not appeal to a lively young lady. As soon as he was established in his museum again, life at the Pyramids would resume its usual routine, until Braddock again felt the want of a change. The wonder was, considering the nature of his work, and the closeness of his application, that he did not more often indulge in these Bohemian wanderings.
Lucy, therefore, was not astonished when, on the morning after her visit to Mrs. Jasher, the Professor announced in his usual abrupt way that he intended to go to London, but would leave Cockatoo in charge of his precious collection. She was somewhat disturbed, however, as, wishing to forward the widow’s matrimonial aims, she had invited her to dinner for the ensuing night. This she told her step-father, and, rather to her surprise, he expressed himself sorry that he could not remain.
“Mrs. Jasher,” said Braddock hastily, drinking his coffee, “is a very sensible woman, who knows when to be silent.”
“She is also a good housekeeper, I believe,” hinted Miss Kendal demurely.
“Eh, what? Well? Why do you say that?” snapped Braddock sharply.
“Mrs. Jasher admires you, father.”
Braddock grunted, but did not seem displeased, since even a scientist possessing the usual vanity of the male is not inaccessible to flattery.
“Did Mrs. Jasher tell you this?” he inquired, smiling complacently.
“Not in so many words. Still, I am a woman, and can guess how much another woman leaves unsaid.” Lucy paused, then added significantly: “I do not think that she is so very old, and you must admit that she is wonderfully well preserved.”
“Like a mummy,” remarked the Professor absently; then pushed back his chair to add briskly: “What does all this mean, you minx? I know that the woman is all right so far as a woman can be: but her confounded age and her looks and her unexpressed admiration. What are these to an old man like myself?”
“Father,” said Lucy earnestly, “when I marry Archie I shall, in all probability, leave Gartley for London.”
“I know — I know. Bless me, child, do you think that I have not thought of that? If you were only wise, which you are not, you would marry Random and remain at the Fort.”
“Sir Frank has other fish to fry, father. And even if I did remain at the Fort as his wife, I still could not look after you.”
“Humph! I am beginning to see what you are driving at. But I can’t forget your mother, my dear. She was a good wife to me.”
“Still,” said Lucy coaxingly, and becoming more and more the champion of Mrs. Jasher, “you cannot manage this large house by yourself. I do not like to leave you in the hands of servants when I marry. Mrs. Jasher is very domesticated and —”
“And would make a good housekeeper. No, no, I don’t want to give you another mother, child.”
“There is no danger of that, even if I did not marry,” rejoined Lucy stiffly. “A girl can have only one mother.”
“And a man apparently can have two wives,” said Braddock with dry humor. “Humph!”— he pinched his plump chin —“it’s not a bad idea. But of course I can’t fall in love at my age.”
“I don’t think that Mrs. Jasher asks for impossibilities.”
The Professor rose briskly.
“I’ll think over it,” said he. “Meanwhile, I am going to London.”
“When will you be back, father?”
“I can’t say. Don’t ask silly questions. I dislike being bound to time. I may be a week, and I may be only a few days. Things can go on here as usual, but if Hope comes to see you, ask Mrs. Jasher in, to play chaperon.”
Lucy consented to this suggestion, and Braddock went away to prepare for his departure. To get him off the premises was like launching a ship, as the entire household was at his swift heels, packing boxes, strapping rugs, cutting sandwiches, helping him on with his overcoat and assisting him into the trap, which had been hastily sent for to the Warrior Inn. All the time Braddock talked and scolded and gave directions and left instructions, until every one was quite bewildered. Lucy and the servants all sighed with relief when they saw the trap disappear round the end of the road in the direction of Jessum. In addition to being a famous archaeologist, the Professor was assuredly a great nuisance to those who had to do with his whims and fancies.
For the next two or three days Lucy enjoyed herself in a quiet way with Archie. In spite of the lateness of the season, the weather was still fine, and the artist took the opportunity of the pale sunshine to sketch a great deal of the marsh scenery. Lucy attended him as a rule when he went abroad, and sometimes Mrs. Jasher, voluble and merry, would come along with them to play the part of chaperon. But the girl noticed that Mrs. Jasher’s merriment was forced at times, and in the searching morning light she appeared to be quite old. Wrinkles showed themselves on her plump face and weary lines appeared round her mouth. Also, she was absent-minded while the lovers chattered, and, when spoken to, would return to the present moment with a start. As the widow was now well off as regards money, and as her scheme to marry Braddock was well on the way to success — for Lucy had duly reported the Professor’s attitude — it was difficult to understand why Mrs. Jasher should look so worried. One day Lucy spoke to her on the subject. Random had strolled across the marshes to look at Hope sketch, and the two men chatted together, while Miss Kendal led the little widow to one side.
“There is nothing the matter, I hope,” said Lucy gently.
“No. Why do you say that?” asked Mrs. Jasher, flushing.
“You have been looking worried for the last few days.”
“I have a few troubles,” sighed the widow —“troubles connected with the estate of my late brother. The lawyers are very disagreeable and make all sorts of difficulties to swell their costs. Then, strangely enough, I am beginning to feel my brother’s death more than I thought I should have done. You see that I am in mourning, dear. After what you said the other day I felt that it was wrong for me not to wear mourning. Of course my poor brother and I were almost strangers. All the same, as he has left me money and was my only relative, I think it right to show some grief. I am a lonely woman, my dear.”
“When my father comes back you will no longer be lonely,” said Lucy.
“I hope not. I feel that I want a man to look after me. I told you that I desired to marry the Professor for his possible title and in order to form a salon and have some amusement and power. But also I want a companion for my old age. There is no denying,” added Mrs. Jasher with another sigh, “that I am growing old in spite of all the care I take. I am grateful for your friendship, dear. At one time I thought that you did not like me.”
“Oh, I think we get on very well together,” said Lucy somewhat evasively, for she did not want to say that she would make the widow an intimate friend, “and, as you know, I am quite pleased that you should marry my step-father.”
“So pleasant to think that you look at my ambition in that light,” said Mrs. Jasher, patting the girl’s arm. “When does the Professor return?”
“I cannot say. He refused to fix a date. But he usually remains away for a fortnight. I expect him back in that time, but he may come much earlier. He will come back when the fancy takes him.”
“I shall alter all that, when we are married,” muttered Mrs. Jasher with a frown. “He must be taught to be less selfish.”
“I fear you will never improve him in that respect,” said Lucy dryly, and rejoined the gentlemen in time to hear Random mention the name of Don Pedro de Gayangos.
“What is that, Sir Frank?” she asked.
Random turned toward her with his pleasant smile.
“My Spanish friend, whom I met at Genoa, is coming here tomorrow.”
“With his daughter?” questioned Mrs. Jasher roguishly.
“Of course,” replied the young soldier, coloring. “Donna Inez is quite devoted to her father and never leaves him.”
“She will one day, I expect,” said Hope innocently, for his eyes were on his sketch and not on Random’s face, “when the husband of her choice comes along.”
“Perhaps he has come along already,” tittered Mrs. Jasher significantly.
Lucy took pity on Random’s confusion.
“Where will they stay?”
“At the Warrior Inn. I have engaged the best rooms in the place. I fancy they will be comfortable there, as Mrs. Humber, the landlady, is a good housekeeper and an excellent cook. And I don’t think Don Pedro is hard to please.”
“A Spaniard, you say,” remarked Archie idly. “Does he speak English?”
“Admirably — so does the daughter.”
“But why does a Spaniard come to so out-of-the-way a place?” asked Mrs. Jasher, after a pause.
“I thought I told you the other day, when we spoke of the matter,” answered Sir Frank with surprise. “Don Pedro has come here to interview Professor Braddock about that missing mummy.”
Hope looked up sharply.
“What does he know about the mummy?”
“Nothing so far as I know, save that he came to Europe with the intention of purchasing it, and found himself forestalled by Professor Braddock. Don Pedro told me no more than that.”
“Humph!” murmured Hope to himself. “Don Pedro will be disappointed when he learns that the mummy is missing.”
Random did not catch the words and was about to ask him what he had said, when two tall figures, conducted by a shorter one, were seen moving on the white road which led to the Fort.
“Strangers!” said Mrs. Jasher, putting up her lorgnette, which she used for effect, although she had remarkably keen sight.
“How do you know?” asked Lucy carelessly.
“My dear, look how oddly the man is dressed.”
“I can’t tell at this distance,” said Lucy, “and if you can, Mrs. Jasher I really do not see why you require glasses.”
Mrs. Jasher laughed at the compliment to her sight, and colored through her rouge at the reproof to her vanity. Meanwhile, the smaller figure, which was that of a village lad leading a tall gentleman and a slender lady, pointed toward the group round Hope’s easel. Shortly, the boy ran back up to the village road, and the gentleman came along the pathway with the lady. Random, who had been looking at them intently, suddenly started, having at length recognized them.
“Don Pedro and his daughter,” he said in an astonished voice, and sprang forward to welcome the unexpected visitors.
“Now, my dear,” whispered the widow in Lucy’s ear, “we shall see the kind of woman Sir Frank prefers to you.”
“Well, as Sir Frank has seen the kind of man I prefer to him,” retorted Lucy, “that makes us quite equal.”
“I am glad these new-comers talk English,” said Hope, who had risen to his feet. “I know nothing of Spanish.”
“They are not Spanish, but Peruvian,” said Mrs. Jasher.
“The language is the same, more or less. Confound it! here is Random bringing them here. I wish he would take them to the Fort. There’s no more work for the next hour, I suppose,” and Hope, rather annoyed, began to pack his artistic traps.
On a nearer view, Don Pedro proved to be a tall, lean, dry man, not unlike Dore’s conception of Don Quixote. He must have had Indian blood in his veins, judging from his very dark eyes, his stiff, lank hair, worn somewhat long, and his high cheek-bones. Also, although he was arrayed in puritanic black, his barbaric love of color betrayed itself in a red tie and in a scarlet handkerchief which was twisted loosely round a soft slouch hat, It was the hat and the brilliant red of tie and handkerchief which had caught Mrs. Jasher’s eye at so great a distance, and which had led her to pronounce the man a stranger, for Mrs. Jasher well knew that no Englishman would affect such vivid tints. All the same, in spite of this eccentricity, Don Pedro looked a thorough Castilian gentleman, and bowed gravely when presented to the ladies by Random.
“Mrs. Jasher, Miss Kendal, permit me to present Don Pedro de Gayangos.”
“I am charmed,” said the Peruvian, bowing, hat in hand, “and in turn, allow me, ladies, to introduce my daughter, Donna Inez de Gayangos.”
Archie was also presented to the Don and to the young lady, after which Lucy and Mrs. Jasher, while not appearing to look, made a thorough examination of the lady with whom Random was in love. No doubt Donna Inez was making an examination on her own account, and with the cleverness of the sex the three women, while chatting affably, learned all that there was to be learned from the outward appearance of each other in three minutes. Miss Kendal could not deny but what Donna Inez was very beautiful, and frankly admitted — inwardly, of course — her own inferiority. She was merely pretty, whereas the Peruvian lady was truly handsome and quite majestic in appearance.
Yet about Donna Inez there was the same indefinite barbaric look as characterized her father. Her face was lovely, dark and proud in expression, but there was an aloofness about it which puzzled the English girl. Donna Inez might have belonged to a race populating another planet of the solar system. She had large black, melting eyes, a straight Greek nose and perfect mouth, a well-rounded chin and magnificent hair, dark and glossy as the wing of the raven, which was arranged in the latest Parisian style of coiffure. Also, her gown — as the two women guessed in an instant — was from Paris. She was perfectly gloved and booted, and even if she betrayed somehow a barbaric taste for color in the dull ruddy hue of her dress, which was subdued with black braid, yet she looked quite a well-bred woman. All the same, her whole appearance gave an observant onlooker the idea that she would be more at home in a scanty robe and glittering with rudely wrought ornaments of gold. Perhaps Peru, where she came from, suggested the comparison, but Lucy’s thoughts flew back to an account of the Virgins of the Sun, which the Professor had once described. It occurred to her, perhaps wrongly, that in Donna Inez she beheld one who in former days would have been the bride of some gorgeous Inca.
“I fear you will find England dull after the sunshine of Lima,” said Lucy, having ended a swift examination.
Donna Inez shivered a trifle and glanced around at the gray misty air through which the pale sunshine struggled with difficulty.
“I certainly prefer the tropics to this,” she said in musical English, “but my father has come down here on business, and until it is concluded we shall remain in this place.”
“Then we must make things as bright as possible for you,” said Mrs. Jasher cheerfully, and desperately anxious to learn more of the new-comers. “You must come to see me, Donna Inez — yonder is my cottage.”
“Thank you, madame: you are very good.”
Meanwhile Don Pedro was talking to the two young men.
“Yes, I did arrive here earlier than I expected,” he was remarking, “but I have to return to Lima shortly, and I wish to get my business with Professor Braddock finished as speedily as possible.”
“I am sorry,” said Lucy politely, “but my father is absent.”
“And when will he return, Miss Kendal?”
“I can scarcely say — in a week or a fortnight.”
Don Pedro made a gesture of annoyance.
“It is a pity, as I am so very pressed for time. Still, I must remain until the Professor returns. I am so anxious to hear if the mummy has been found.”
“It is not found yet,” said Hope quickly, “and never will be.”
Don Pedro looked at him quietly.
“It must be found,” said he. “I have come all the way from Lima to obtain it. When you hear my story you will not be surprised at my desire to regain the mummy.”
“Regain it?” echoed Hope and Random in one breath.
Don Pedro nodded.
“The mummy was stolen from my father,” he said.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09