Lucy and Mrs. Jasher were having a confidential conversation in the small pink drawing-room. True to her promise, Miss Kendal had come to readjust matters between the fiery little Professor and the widow. But it was not an easy task, as Mrs. Jasher was righteously indignant at the rash words used to her.
“As if I knew anything about the matter,” she repeated again and again in angry tones. “Why, my dear, he as good as told me I had murdered —”
Lucy did not let her finish.
“There! there!” she said, speaking as she would have done to a fretful child, “you know what my father is.”
“It seems to me that I am just beginning to learn,” said the widow bitterly, “and knowing how ready he is to believe ill of me, I think it is better we should part for ever.”
“But you’ll never be Lady Braddock.”
“Even if I married him, I am not sure that I should be, since I learn that his brother is singularly healthy and comes of a long-lived family. And it will not be pleasant to live with your father when he has such a temper.”
“That was only because he was excited. Think of your salon, and of the position you wish to hold in, London.”
“Ah, well,” said Mrs. Jasher, visibly softening, “there is something to be said there. After all, one can never find a man who is perfection. And a very amiable man is usually a fool. One can’t expect a rose to be without thorns. But really, my dear,” she surveyed Lucy with mild surprise, “you appear to be very anxious that I should marry your father.”
“I want to see my father made comfortable before I marry Archie,” said the girl with a blush. “Of course my father is quite a child in household affairs and needs everything done for him. Archie — I am glad to say — is now in a position to marry me in the spring. I want you to be married about the same time, and then you can live in Gartley, and —”
“No, my dear,” said Mrs. Jasher firmly, “if I marry your father, he wishes us to go at once to Egypt in search of this tomb.”
“I know that he wants you to help with the money left to you by your late brother. But surely you will not go up the Nile yourself?”
“No, certainly not,” said the widow promptly. “I shall remain in Cairo while the Professor goes on his excursion into Ethiopia. I know that Cairo is a very charming place, and that I shall be able to enjoy myself there.”
“Then you have decided to forgive my father for his rash words?”
“I must,” sighed Mrs. Jasher. “I am so tired of being an unprotected widow without a recognized position in the world. Even with my brother’s money — not that it is so very much — I shall still be looked upon askance if I go into society. But as Mrs. Braddock, or Lady Braddock, no one will dare to say a word against me. Yes, my dear, if your father comes and, asks my pardon he shall have it. We women are so weak,” ended the widow virtuously, as if she was not making a virtue of necessity.
Things being thus settled, the two talked on amiably for some time, and discussed the chances of Random marrying Donna Inez. Both acknowledged that the Peruvian lady was handsome enough, but had not a word to say for herself.
While thus chattering, Professor Braddock trotted into the room, looking brisk and bright from his stroll in the cold frosty air. Gifted as he was with scientific assurance, the little man was not at all taken aback by the cold reception of Mrs. Jasher, but rubbed his hands cheerfully.
“Ah, there you are, Selina,” said he, looking like a bright-eyed robin. “I hope you are feeling well.”
“How can you expect me to feel well after what you said?” remarked Mrs. Jasher reproachfully, and anxious to make a virtue of forgiveness.
“Oh, I beg pardon: I beg pardon. Surely, Selina, you are not going to make a fuss over a trifle like that?”
“I did not give you permission to call me Selina.”
“Quite so. But as we are to be married, I may as well get used to your Christian name, my dear.”
“I am not so sure that we will be married,” said Mrs. Jasher stiffly.
“Oh, but we must,” cried Braddock in dismay. “I am depending upon your money to finance my expedition to Queen Tahoser’s tomb.”
“I see,” observed the widow coldly, while Lucy sat quietly by and allowed the elder woman to conduct the campaign, “you want me for my money. There is no love in the question.”
“My dear, as soon as I have the time — say during our voyage to Cairo, whence we start inland up the Nile for Ethiopia — I shall make love whenever you like. And, confound it, Selina, I admire you no end — to use a slang phrase. You are a fine woman and a sensible woman, and I am afraid that you are throwing yourself away on a snuffy old man like myself.”
“Oh no! no! Pray do not say that,” cried Mrs. Jasher, visibly moved by this flattery. “You will make a very good husband if you will only strive to govern your temper.”
“Temper! temper! Bless the woman — I mean you, Selina — I have the very best temper in the world. However, you shall govern it and myself also if you like. Come,” he took her hand, “let us be friends and fix the wedding day.”
Mrs. Jasher did not withdraw her hand.
“Then you do not believe that I have anything to do with this terrible murder?” she asked playfully.
“No! no! I was heated last night. I spoke rashly and hastily. Forgive and forget, Selina. You are innocent — quite innocent, in spite of the mummy being in your confounded garden. After all, the evidence is stronger against Random than against you. Perhaps he put it there: it’s on his way to the Fort, you see. Never mind. He has exonerated himself, and no doubt, when confronted with Hervey, will be able to silence that blackguard. And I am quite sure that Hervey is a blackguard,” ended Braddock, rubbing his bald head.
The two ladies looked at one another in amazement, not knowing what to say. They were ignorant of the theft of the emeralds and of the accusation of Sir Frank by the Yankee skipper. But, with his usual absentmindedness, Braddock had forgotten all about that, and sat in his chair rubbing his head quite pink and rattling on cheerfully.
“I went down with Hope to the embankment,” he continued, “but neither of us could see any sign of a boat. There’s the rude, short jetty, of course, and if a boat came, a boat could go away without leaving any trace. Perhaps that is so. However, we must wait until we see Don Pedro and Hervey again, and then —”
Lucy broke in desperately.
“What are you talking about, father? Why do you bring in Sir Frank’s name in that way?”
“What do you expect me to say?” retorted the little man. “After all, the manuscript was found in his room, and the emeralds are gone. I saw that for myself, as did Hope and Don Pedro, in whose presence I opened the mummy case.”
Mrs. Jasher rose in her astonishment.
“Are the emeralds gone?” she gasped.
“Yes! yes! yes!” cried Braddock irritably. “Am I not telling you so? I almost believe in Hervey’s accusation of Random, and yet the boy exonerated himself very forcibly — very forcibly indeed.”
“Will you explain all that has happened, father?” said Lucy, who was becoming more and more perplexed by this rambling chatter. “We are quite in the dark.”
“So am I: so is Hope: so is every one,” chuckled Braddock. “Ah, yes: of course, you were not present when these events took place.”
“What events? — what events?” demanded Mrs. Jasher, now quite exasperated.
“I am about to tell you,” snapped her future husband, and related all that had taken place since the arrival of Captain Hervey in the museum at the Pyramids. The women listened with interest and with growing astonishment, only interrupting the narrator with a simultaneous exclamation of indignation when they heard that Sir Frank was accused.
“It is utterly and wholly absurd,” cried Lucy angrily. “Sir Frank is the soul of honor.”
“So I think, my dear,” chimed in Mrs. Jasher. “And what does he say to —?”
“I am about to tell you, if you will stop talking,” he cried crossly. “That is so like a woman. She asks for an explanation and then prevents the man from giving it. Random offers a very good defense, I am bound to say,” and he detailed what Sir Frank had said.
When the history was finished, Lucy rose to go.
“I shall see Archie at once,” she said, moving hastily, towards the door.
“What for?” demanded her father benignly.
“This thing can’t go on,” she declared resolutely. “Mrs. Jasher was accused by you, father —”
“Only in a heated moment,” cried the Professor, excusing himself.
“Never mind, she was accused,” retorted Lucy stubbornly, “and now this sailor accuses Sir Frank. Who knows who will be charged next with committing the crime? I shall ask Archie to take the matter up, and hunt down the real criminal. Until the guilty person is found, I foresee that we shall never have a moment’s peace.”
“I quite agree with you,” said Mrs. Jasher earnestly. “For my own sake I wish the matter of this mystery to be cleared up. Why don’t you help me?” she added, turning to Braddock, who listened placidly.
“I am helping,” said Braddock quietly. “I intend to set Cockatoo on the trail at once. He shall take up his abode in the Sailor’s Rest on some pretext, and no doubt will be able to find a clue.”
“What?” cried the widow incredulously, “a savage like that?”
“Cockatoo is much cleverer than the average white man,” said Braddock dryly, “especially in following a trail. He, if any one, will learn the truth. I would much rather trust the Kanaka than young Hope.”
“Nonsense!” cried Lucy, standing up for her lover. “Archie is the one to discover the assassin. I’ll see him at once. And you, father?”
“I, my dear,” said the Professor calmly, “shall remain here and make my peace with the future Mrs. Braddock.”
“You have made it already,” said the widow graciously, and extended her hand, which the Professor kissed unexpectedly, and then sat back in his chair, looking quite abashed at his outburst of gallantry.
Seeing that everything was going well, Lucy left the elderly couple to continue their courting, and hurried to Archie’s lodgings in the village. However, he happened to be out, and his landlady did not know when he would return. Rather annoyed by this, since she greatly desired to unbosom herself, Miss Kendal walked disconsolately towards the Pyramids. On the way she was stopped by Widow Anne, looking more dismal and funereal than ever, and garrulous with copious draughts of gin. Not that she was intoxicated, but her tongue was loose, and she wept freely for no apparent reason. According to herself, she had stopped Lucy to demand back from Mr. Hope through the girl certain articles of attire which had been borrowed for artistic purposes. These, consisting of a shawl and a skirt and a bodice, were of extraordinary value, and Mrs. Bolton wanted them back or their equivalent in value. She mentioned that she would prefer the sum of five pounds.
“Why do you not ask Mr. Hope yourself?” said Lucy who was too impatient to bear with the old creature’s maunderings. “If you gave him the things he will no doubt return them.”
“If they aren’t spiled with paint,” wailed Widow Anne. “He told my Sid as he wanted them for a model to wear while being painted. Sid asked me, and I gave ’em to Sid, and Sid, he passed ’em along to your good gentleman. There was a skirt, as good as new, and a body of the dress trimmest beautiful, and a tartan shawl as I got from my mother. But no,” the old woman corrected herself, “it was a dark shawl with red spots and —”
“Ask Mr. Hope, ask Mr. Hope,” cried Miss Kendal impatiently. “I know nothing about the things,” and she tore her dress from Widow Anne’s detaining hand to hurry home. Mrs. Bolton wailed aloud at this desertion, and took her way to Hope’s lodgings, where she declared her determination to remain until the artist restored her apparel.
Lucy for the moment thought little of this interview; but on reflection she thought it strange that Archie should borrow clothes from Mrs. Bolton through Sidney. Not that there was anything strange in Archie’s procuring such garments, since he may have wanted them to clothe a model with. But he could easily have got such things from his landlady, or, if from Widow Anne, could have borrowed them direct without appealing to Sidney. Why, then, had the dead man acted as an intermediate party? This question was hard to answer, yet Lucy greatly wished for a reply, since she suddenly remembered how a woman in a dark dress and with a dark shawl over her head had been seen by Eliza Flight, the housemaid of the Sailor’s Rest, talking to Bolton through the window. Were the garments borrowed as a disguise, and did the person who had borrowed them desire that it should be supposed that Widow Anne was talking to her son? There was a chill hand clutching Lucy’s heart as she went home, for the words of Mrs. Bolton seemed indirectly to implicate Hope in the mystery. She determined to ask him about the matter straight out, when he came in that night to pay his usual visit.
At dinner the Professor was in excellent spirits, and actually became so human as to compliment Lucy on her housekeeping. He also mentioned that he hoped Mrs. Jasher would cater as excellently. Over coffee he informed his step-daughter that he had entirely won the widow’s heart by abasing himself at her feet and withdrawing the accusation. They had arranged to be married in May, one or two weeks after Lucy became Mrs. Hope. In the autumn they would start for Egypt, and would remain abroad for a year or more.
“In fact,” said the Professor, setting down his cup and preparing to take his departure, “everything is now settled excellently. I marry Mrs. Jasher: you, my dear, marry Hope, and —”
“And Sir Frank marries Donna Inez,” finished Lucy quickly.
“That,” said Braddock stiffly, “entirely depends upon what De Gayangos says to this accusation of Hervey’s.”
“Sir Frank is innocent.”
“I hope so, and I believe so. But he will have to prove his innocence. I shall do my best, and I have sent round to Don Pedro to come here. We can then talk it over.”
“Can Archie and I come in also?” asked Miss Kendal anxiously.
Somewhat to her surprise, the Professor yielded a ready assent.
“By all means, my dear. The more witnesses we have, the better it will be. We must do all in our powers to bring this matter to a successful issue.”
So things were arranged, and when Archie came up to the drawing-room, Lucy informed him that Braddock was in the museum with Don Pedro, telling all that had happened. Hope was glad to hear that Lucy had secured the Professor’s consent that they should be present, for the mystery of Bolton’s terrible death was piquing him, and he dearly desired to learn the truth. As a matter of fact, although he was unaware of it, he was suffering from an attack of detective fever, and wished to solve the mystery. He therefore went gladly into the museum with his sweetheart. Oddly enough — as Lucy recollected when it was too late to speak — she quite forgot to relate what Widow Anne had said about the borrowed clothes.
Don Pedro, looking more stiff and dignified than ever, was in the museum with Braddock. The two men were seated in comfortable chairs, and Cockatoo, some distance away, was polishing with a cloth the green mummy case of the fatal object which had brought about all the trouble. Lucy had half expected to see Donna Inez, but De Gayangos explained that he had left her writing letters to Lima in the Warrior Inn. When Miss Kendal and Hope were seated, the Peruvian expressed himself much surprised at the charge which had been brought against Sir Frank.
“If I can speak of such things in the presence of a lady,” he remarked, bowing his head to Lucy.
“Oh yes,” she answered eagerly. “I have heard all about the charge. And I am glad that you are here, Don Pedro, for I wish to say that I do not believe there is a word of truth in the accusation.”
“Nor do I,” asserted the Peruvian decisively.
“I agree — I agree,” cried Braddock, beaming. “And you, Hope?”
“I never believed it, even before I heard Random’s defense,” said Archie with a dry smile. “Did you not see Captain Hervey yourself, sir?” he added, turning to Don Pedro; “he started for Pierside to look you up.”
“I have not seen him,” said De Gayangos in his stately way, “and I am very sorry, as I desire to examine him about the accusation he had dared to bring against my very good friend, Sir Frank Random. I wish he were here at this very minute, so that I could tell him what I think of the charge.”
Just as Don Pedro spoke the unexpected happened, as though some genie had obeyed his commands. As though transported into the room by magic, the American skipper appeared, not through the floor, but by the door. A female domestic admitted him and announced his name, then fled to avoid the anger of her master, seeing she had violated the sacred precincts of the museum.
Captain Hervey, amused by the surprise visible on every face, sauntered forward, hat on head and cheroot in mouth as usual. But when he saw Lucy he removed both with a politeness scarcely to be expected from so rude and ready and rough a mariner.
“I beg pardon for coming here uninvited,” said Hervey awkwardly, “but I’ve been chasing the Don all over Pierside and through this village. They told me at the police office that you”— he spoke to De Gayangos “had doubled on your trail, so here I am for a little private conversation.”
The Peruvian looked gravely at Hervey’s face, which was clearly revealed in the powerful light of the many lamps with which the museum was filled, and rose to bow.
“I am glad to see you, sir,” he said politely, and with a still more searching glance. “With the permission of our host I shall ask you to take a chair,” and he turned to Braddock.
“Certainly! certainly!” said the Professor fussily. “Cockatoo?”
“Pardon, allow me,” said De Gayangos, and brought forward a chair, still keeping his eyes on the skipper, who was rather confused by the courtesy. “Will you be seated, senor: then we can talk.”
Hervey sat down quietly close to the Peruvian; who then leaned forward to address him.
“You will have a cigarette?” he asked, offering a silver case.
“Thanks, no. I’ll smoke a cheroot if the lady don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” replied Lucy, who, along with Archie and the Professor, was puzzled by Don Pedro’s manner. “Please smoke!”
In taking back the case Don Pedro allowed it to drop. As he made no motion of picking it up, Hervey, although annoyed with himself for his politeness towards a yellow-stomach, as he called De Gayangos, was compelled to stretch for it. As he handed it back to Don Pedro, the Peruvian’s eyes lighted up and he nodded gravely.
“Thank you, Vasa,” said De Gayangos, and Hervey, changing color, leaped from his seat as though touched by a spear-point.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09