It was certainly strange how constantly the subject of the missing mummy came uppermost. Since it had disappeared and since the man who had brought it to England was dead, it might have been thought that nothing more would be said about the matter. But Professor Braddock harped incessantly on his loss — which was perhaps natural — and Widow Anne also talked a great deal as to the possibility of the mummy, being found, as she hoped to learn by that means the name of the assassin who had strangled her poor boy. Now Don Pedro de Gayangos appeared with the strange information that the weird relic of Peruvian civilization had been stolen from his father. Apparently fate was not inclined to let the matter of the lost mummy drop, and was working round to a denouement, which would possibly include the solution of the mystery of Sidney Bolton’s death. Yet, on the face of it, there appeared to be no chance of the truth becoming known.
Of course, when Don Pedro announced that the Mummy had formerly belonged to his father, every one was anxious to hear how it had been stolen. The Gayangos family were established in Lima, and the embalmed body of Inca Caxas had been purchased from a gentleman residing in Malta. How, then, had it crossed the water, and how had Don Pedro learned its whereabouts, only to arrive too late to secure his missing property? Mrs. Jasher was especially anxious to learn these things, and explained her reasons to Lucy.
“You see, my dear,” she said to the girl on the day after Don Pedro’s arrival in Gartley, “if we learn the past of that horrid mummy, we may gain a clue to the person who desired possession of the nasty thing, and so may hunt down this terrible criminal. Once he is found, the mummy may be secured again, and should I be able to return it to your father, out of gratitude he would certainly marry me.”
“You seem to think that the assassin is a man,” said Lucy dryly; “yet you forget that the person who talked to Sidney through the window of the Sailor’s Rest was a woman.”
“An old woman,” emphasized Mrs. Jasher briskly: “quite so.”
“Eliza Flight did not say if the woman was old or young, but merely stated that she wore a dark dress and a dark shawl over her head. Still, this mysterious woman was connected in some way with the murder, else she would not have been speaking to Sidney.”
“I don’t follow you, my dear. You talk as though poor Mr. Bolton expected to be murdered. For my part, I hold by the verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. The truth is to be found, if anywhere, in the past of the mummy.”
“We can discover nothing about that.”
“You forget what Don Pedro said, my dear,” remarked Mrs. Jasher hastily, “that the mummy had been stolen from his father. Let us hear what he has to say and we may find a clue. I am anxious that the Professor should regain the green mummy for reasons which you know of. And now, my hear, can you come to dinner to-night?”
“Well, I don’t know.” Miss Kendal hesitated. “Archie said that he would look in this evening.”
“I shall ask Mr. Hope also, my love. Don Pedro is coming and his daughter likewise. Needless to say Sir Frank will follow the young lady. We shall be a party of six, and after dinner we must induce Don Pedro to relate the story of how the mummy was stolen.”
“He may not be inclined.”
“Oh, I think so,” replied; Mrs. Jasher quickly. “He wants to get the mummy back again, and if we discuss the subject we may see some chance of securing it.”
“But Don Pedro will not wish it to be restored to my father.”
Mrs. Jasher shrugged her plump shoulders.
“Your father and Don Pedro can arrange that themselves. All I desire is, that the mummy should be found. Undoubtedly it belongs by purchase to the Professor, but as it has been stolen, this Peruvian gentleman may claim it. Well?”
“I shall come and Archie also,” assented Lucy, who was beginning to be interested in the matter. “The affair is somewhat romantic.”
“Criminal, my dear, criminal,” said Mrs. Jasher, rising to take her leave. “It is not a matter I care to mix myself up with. Still”— she laughed —“you know, why I am doing so.”
“If I had to take all this trouble to gain a husband,” observed Lucy somewhat acidly, “I should remain single all my life.”
“If you were as lonely as I am,” retorted the plump widow, “you would do your best to secure a man toy look after you. I should prefer a young and handsomer husband — such as Sir Frank Random, for instance but, as beggars cannot be choosers, I must content myself with old age, a famous scientist, and the chance of a possible title. Now mind, dear, to-night at seven — not a minute later,” and she bustled away to prepare for the reception of her guests.
It seemed to Lucy that Mrs. Jasher was taking a great deal of trouble to become Mrs. Braddock, especially as the Professor’s brother might live for many a long day yet, in which case the widow would not gain the title she coveted for years. However, the girl rather sympathized with Mrs. Jasher, who was a companionable soul, and fond of society. Circumstances condemned her to a somewhat lonely life in an isolated cottage in a rather dull neighborhood, so it was little to be wondered at that she should strive to move heaven and earth — as she was doing — in the hope of escaping from her solitude. Besides, although Miss Kendal did not wish to make a close companion of the widow, yet she did not dislike her, and, moreover, thought that she would make Professor Braddock a very presentable wife. Thinking thus, Lucy was quite willing to forward Mrs. Jasher’s plans by inducing Don Pedro to tell all he knew about this missing mummy.
Thus it came about that six people assembled in the tiny pink parlor of Mrs. Jasher at the hour of seven o’clock. It required dexterous management to seat the whole company in the dining room, which was only a trifle larger than the parlor. However, Mrs. Jasher contrived to place them round her hospitable board in, a fairly comfortable fashion, and, once seated, the dinner was so good that no one felt the drawbacks of scanty elbow room. The widow, as hostess, was placed at the head of the table; Don Pedro, as the eldest of the men, at the foot; and Sir Frank, with Donna Inez, faced Archie and Lucy Kendal. Jane, who was well instructed in waiting by her mistress, attended to her duties admirably, acting both as footman and butler. Lucy, indeed, had offered Mrs. Jasher the services of Cockatoo to hand round the wine, but the widow with a pretty shudder had declined.
“That dreadful creature with his yellow mop of hair gives me the shivers,” she declared.
Considering the isolation of the district, and the narrow limits of Mrs. Jasher’s income, the meal was truly, admirable, being well cooked and well served, while the table was arrayed like an altar for the reception of the various dishes. Whatever Mrs. Jasher might be as an adventuress, she certainly proved herself to be a capital housekeeper, and Lucy foresaw that, if she did become Mrs. Braddock, the Professor would fare sumptuously, for the rest of his scientific life. When the meal was ended the widow produced a box of superfine cigars and another of cigarettes, after which she left the gentlemen to sip their wine, and took her two young friends to chatter chiffons in the tiny parlor. And it said much for Mrs. Jasher’s methodical ways that, considering the limited space, everything went — as the saying goes — like clockwork. Likewise, the widow had proved herself a wonderful hostess, as she kept the ball of conversation rolling briskly and induced a spirit of fraternity, uncommon in an ordinary dinner party.
During the meal Mrs. Jasher had kept off the subject of the mummy, which was the excuse for the entertainment; but when the gentlemen strolled into the parlor, feeling well fed and happy, she hinted at Don Pedro’s quest. As the night was cold and the Peruvian gentleman came from the tropics, he was established in a well padded arm-chair close to the sea-coal fire, and with her own fair hands Mrs. Jasher gave him a cup of fragrant coffee, which was rendered still more agreeable to the palate by the introduction of a vanilla bean. With this and with a good cigar — for the ladies gave the gentlemen permission to smoke — Don Pedro felt very happy and easy, and complimented Mrs. Jasher warmly on her capability of making her fellow-creatures comfortable.
“It is altogether comfortable, madame,” said Don Pedro, rising to make a courtly bow. In fact, so agreeable was the foreigner that Mrs. Jasher dreamed for one swift moment of throwing over the dry-as-dust scientist to become a Spanish lady of Lima.
“You flatter me, Don Pedro,” she said, waving a wholly unnecessary fan out of compliment to her guest’s Spanish extraction. “Indeed, I am very glad that you are pleased with my poor little house.”
“Pardon, madame, but no house can be poor when it is a casket to contain such a jewel.”
“There!” said Lucy somewhat satirically to the young men, while Mrs. Jasher blushed and bridled, “what Englishman could turn such a compliment? It reminds one of Georgian times.”
“We are more sober now than my fathers were then,” said Hope, smiling, “and I am sure if Random thought for a few minutes he could produce something pretty. Go on, Random.”
“My brain is not equal to the strain after dinner,” said Sir Frank.
As for Donna Inez, she did not speak, but sat smiling quietly in her corner of the room, looking remarkably handsome. As a young girl Lucy was pretty, and Mrs. Jasher was a comely widow, but neither one had the majestic looks of the Spanish lady. She smiled, a veritable queen amidst the gim-crack ornaments of Mrs. Jasher’s parlor, and Sir Frank, who was fathoms deep in love, could not keep his eyes off her face.
For a few minutes the conversation was frivolous, quite the Shakespeare and musical glasses kind of speech. Then Mrs. Jasher, who had no idea that her good dinner should be wasted in charming nothings, introduced the subject of the mummy by a reference to Professor Braddock. It was characteristic of her cleverness that she did not address Don Pedro, but pointed her speech at Lucy Kendal.
“I do hope your father will return with that mummy,” she observed, after a dexterous allusion to the late tragedy.
“I don’t think he has gone to look for it,” replied Miss Kendal indifferently.
“But surely he desired to get it back, after paying nearly one thousand pounds for it,” said Mrs. Jasher, with well-feigned astonishment.
“Oh, of course; but he would scarcely look for it in London.”
“Has Professor Braddock gone to search for the mummy?” asked Don Pedro.
“No,” answered Lucy. “He is visiting the British Museum to make some researches in the Egyptian department.”
“When do you expect him back, please?”
Lucy shrugged her shoulders.
“I can’t say, Don Pedro. My father comes and goes as the whim takes him.”
The Spanish gentleman looked thoughtfully into the fire.
“I shall be glad to see the Professor when he returns,” he said in his excellent, slow-sounding English. “My concern about this mummy is deep.”
“Dear me,” remarked Mrs. Jasher, shielding her fair cheek with the unnecessary fan, and venturing on a joke, “is the mummy a relative?”
“Yes, madame,” replied Don Pedro, gravely and unexpectedly.
At this every one, very naturally, looked astonished — that is, all save Donna Inez, who still preserved her fixed smile. Mrs. Jasher took a mental note of the same, and decided that the young lady was not very intelligent. Meanwhile Don Pedro continued his speech after a glance round the circle.
“I have the blood of the royal Inca race in my veins,” he said with pride.
“Ha!” murmured the widow to herself, “then that accounts for your love of color, which is so unEnglish;” then she raised her voice. “Tell us all about it, Don Pedro,” she entreated; “we are usually so dull here that a romantic story excites us dreadfully.”
“I do not know that it is very romantic,” said Don Pedro with a polite smile, “and if you will not find it dull —”
“Oh, no!” said Archie, who was as anxious as Mrs. Jasher to hear what was to be said about the mummy. “Come, sir, we are all attention.”
Don Pedro bowed again, and again swept the circle with his deep-set eyes.
“The Inca Caxas,” he remarked, “was one of the decadent rulers of ancient Peru. At the Conquest by the Spaniards, Inca Atahuallpa was murdered by Pizarro, as you probably know. Inca Toparca succeeded him as a puppet king. He died also, and it was suspected that he was slain by a native chief called Challcuchima. Then Manco succeeded, and is looked upon by historians as the last Inca of Peru. But he was not.”
“This is news, indeed,” said Random lazily. “And who was the last Inca?”
“The man who is now the green mummy.”
“Inca Caxas,” ventured Lucy timidly.
Don Pedro looked at her sharply. “How do you come to know the name?”
“You mentioned it just now, but, before that, I heard my father mention it,” said Lucy, who was surprised at the sharpness of his tone.
“And where did the Professor learn the name?” asked Don Pedro anxiously.
Lucy shook her head.
“I cannot say. But go on with the story,” she continued, with the naive curiosity of a child.
“Yes, do,” pleaded Mrs. Jasher, who was listening with all her ears.
The Peruvian meditated for a few minutes, then slipped his hand into the pocket of his coat and brought out a discolored parchment, scrawled and scribbled with odd-looking letters in purple ink somewhat faded.
“Did you ever see this before?” he asked Lucy, “or any manuscript like it?”
“No,” she answered, bending forward to examine the parchment carefully.
Don Pedro again swept an inquiring eye round the circle, but everyone denied having seen the manuscript.
“What is it?” asked Sir Frank curiously.
Don Pedro restored the manuscript to his pocket.
“It is an account of the embalming of Inca Caxas, written by his son, who was my ancestor.”
“Then you are descended from this Inca?” said Mrs. Jasher eagerly.
“I am. Had I my rights I should rule Peru. As it is, I am a poor gentleman with very little money. That,” added Don Pedro with emphasis, “is why I wish to recover the mummy of my great ancestor.”
“Is it then so valuable?” asked Archie suddenly. He was thinking of some reason why the mummy should have been stolen.
“Well, in itself it is of no great value, save to an archaeologist,” was Don Pedro’s reply; “but I had better tell you the story of how it was stolen from my father.”
“Go on, go on,” cried Mrs. Jasher. “This is most interesting.”
Don Pedro plunged into his story without further preamble.
“Inca Caxas held his state amidst the solitudes of the Andes, away from the cruel men who had conquered his country. He died and was buried. This manuscript,”— he touched his pocket —“was written by his son, and details the ceremonies, the place of sepulchre, and also gives a list of the jewels with which the mummy was buried.”
“Jewels,” murmured Hope under his breath. “I thought as much.”
“The son of Inca Caxas married a Spanish lady and made peace with the Spaniards. He came to live at Cuzco, and brought with him, for some purpose which the manuscript does not disclose, the mummy of his father. But the manuscript was lost for years, and although my family — the De Gayangoses — became poor, no member of it knew that, concealed in the corpse of Inca Caxas, were two large emeralds of immense value. The mummy of our royal ancestor was treated as a sacred thing and venerated accordingly. Afterwards my family came to live at Lima, and I still dwell in the old house.”
“But how was the mummy stolen from you?” asked Random curiously.
“I am coming to that,” said Don Pedro, frowning at the interruption. “I was not in Lima at the time; but I had met the man who stole the precious mummy.”
“Was he a Spaniard?”
“No,” answered Don Pedro slowly, “he was an English sailor called Vasa.”
“Vasa is a Swedish name,” observed Hope critically.
“This man said that he was English, and certainly spoke like an Englishman, so far as I, a foreigner, can tell. At that time, when I was a young man, civil war raged in Peru. My father’s house was sacked, and this Vasa, who had been received hospitably by my father when he was shipwrecked at Callao, stole the mummy, of Inca Caxas. My father died of grief and charged me to get the mummy back. When peace was restored to my unhappy country I tried to recover the venerated body of my ancestor. But all search proved vain, as Vasa had disappeared, and it was supposed that, for some reason, he had taken the embalmed body out of the country. It was when the mummy was lost that I unexpectedly came across the manuscript, which detailed the funeral ceremonies of Inca Caxas, and on learning about the two emeralds I was naturally more anxious than ever to discover the mummy and retrieve my fallen fortunes by means of the jewels. But, as I said, all search proved vain, and I afterward married, thinking to settle down on what fortune remained to me. I did live quietly in Lima for years until my wife died. Then with my daughter I came to Europe on a visit.”
“To search for the mummy?” questioned Archie eagerly.
“No, sir. I had given up all hope of finding that. But chance placed a clue in my hands. At Genoa I came across a newspaper, which stated that a mummy in a green case — and a Peruvian mummy at that — was for sale at Malta. I immediately made inquiries, thinking that this was the long-lost body of Inca Caxas. But it so happened that I was too late, as already the mummy had been sold to Professor Braddock, and had been taken to England on board The Diver by Mr. Bolton. Chance, which had pointed out the whereabouts of the mummy, also brought me at Genoa into relations with Sir Frank Random”— Don Pedro bowed his head to the baronet —“and, as it appeared that he knew Professor Braddock, I thankfully accepted his offer to introduce me. Hence I am here, but only to hear that the mummy is again lost. That is all,” and the Peruvian gentleman dramatically waved his arm.
“A strange story,” said Archie, who was the first to speak, “and it certainly solves at least one part of the mystery.”
“What is that?” demanded Mrs. Jasher quickly.
“It shows that the mummy was stolen on account of the emeralds.”
“Pardon me, but that is impossible, sir,” said Don Pedro, drawing up his lean figure. “No one but myself knew that the mummy held two emeralds in its dead hands, and I learned that only a few years ago from the manuscript which I had the honor of showing you.”
“There is that objection assuredly,” replied Hope with composure. “Yet I can hardly believe that any man would risk his neck to steal so remarkable a mummy, which he would have a difficulty in disposing of. But did this assassin know of the emeralds, he would venture much to gain them, since jewels can be disposed of with comparative ease, and cannot easily be traced.”
“All the same,” said Random, looking up, “I do not see how the assassin could have learned that the jewels were wrapped in the bandages.”
“Humph!” said Hope, glancing at De Gayangos, “perhaps there is more than one copy of this manuscript you speak of.”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“The sailor Vasa might have copied it.”
“No.” Don Pedro shook his head. “It is written in Latin, since a Spanish priest taught the son of Inca Caxas, who wrote it, that language. I do not think that Vasa knew Latin. Also, if Vasa had copied the manuscript, he would have stripped the mummy to procure the jewels. Now, in the newspaper advertisement it stated that the bandages of the mummy were intact, as also was the verdant case. No,” said Don Pedro decisively, “I am quite of opinion that Vasa, and indeed everyone else, was ignorant of this manuscript.”
“It seems to me,” suggested Mrs. Jasher, “that it would be best to find this sailor.”
“That,” remarked De Gayangos, “is impossible. It is twenty years since he disappeared with the mummy. Let us drop the subject until Professor Braddock returns to discuss it with me.” And this was accordingly done.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55