For the next two or three days, Archie felt decidedly, worried over his projected marriage with Lucy. Certainly he had — to put it bluntly — purchased Braddock’s consent, and that gentleman could scarcely draw back from his plighted word, which had cost the lover so much. Nevertheless, Hope did not entirely, trust the Professor, as, from the few words which he had let drop at the dinner party, it was plain that he hankered after money with which to fit out the expedition in search of the mysterious tomb to which he had alluded. Archie knew, as did the Professor, that he could not supply the necessary five thousand pounds without practically ruining himself, and already he had crippled his resources in paying over the price of the green mummy. He had fondly believed that Braddock would have been satisfied with the relic of Peruvian humanity; but it seemed that the Professor, having got what he wanted, now clamored for what was at present beyond his reach. The mummy was his property, but he desired the contents of Queen Tahoser’s tomb also. This particular moon, which he cried for, was a very expensive article, and Hope did not see how he could gain it.
Unless — and here came in the cause of Archie’s worry — unless the five thousand pounds was borrowed from Sir Frank Random, the Professor would have to content himself with the Maltese mummy. But from what the young man had seen of Braddock’s longing for the especial sepulchre, which he desired to loot, he believed that the scientist would not readily surrender his whim. Random could easily lend or give the money, since he was extremely rich, and extremely generous, but it was improbable that he would aid Braddock without a quid pro quo. As the sole desire of the baronet’s heart was to make Lucy his wife, it could easily be guessed that he would only assist the Professor to realize his ambition on condition that the savant used his influence with his step-daughter. That meant the breaking of the engagement with Hope and the marriage of the girl to the soldier. Of course such a state of things would make Lucy unhappy; but Braddock cared very little for that. To gratify his craze for Egyptian research, he would be willing to sacrifice a dozen girls like Lucy.
Undoubtedly Lucy would refuse to be passed along from one man to another like a bale of goods, and Archie knew that, so far as in her lay, she would keep to her engagement, especially as she denied Braddock’s right to dispose of her hand. All the same, the Professor, in spite of his cherubical looks, could make himself extremely disagreeable, and undoubtedly would do so if thwarted. The sole course that remained, should Braddock begin operations to break the present engagement, would be to marry Lucy at once. Archie would willingly have done so, but pecuniary difficulties stood in the way. He had never told any one of these, not even the girl he loved, but they existed all the same. For many years he had been assisting needy relatives, and thus had hampered himself, in spite of his income. By sheer force of will, so as to force Braddock into giving him Lucy, he had contrived to secure the necessary thousand pounds, without confusing the arrangements he had made to pay off certain debts connected with his domestic philanthropy; but this brought him to the end of his resources. In six months he hoped to be free to have his income entirely to himself, and then — small as it was — he could support a wife. But until the half year elapsed he could see no chance of marrying Lucy with any degree of comfort, and meanwhile she would be exposed to the persecutions of the Professor. Perhaps persecutions is too harsh a word, as Braddock was kind enough to the girl. Nevertheless, he was pertinacious in gaining his aims where his pet hobby was concerned, and undoubtedly, could he see any chance of obtaining the money from Random by selling his step-daughter, he would do so. Assuredly it was dishonorable to act in this way, but the Professor was a scientific Jesuit, and deemed that the end justified the means, when any glory to himself and gain to the British Museum was in question.
“But I may be doing him an injustice,” said Archie, when he was explaining his fears to Miss Kendal on the third day after the dinner party. “After all, the Professor is a gentleman, and will probably hold to the bargain which he has made.”
“I don’t care whether he does or not,” cried Lucy, who had a fine color and a certain amount of fire in her eyes. “I am not going to be bought and sold to forward these nasty scientific schemes. My father can say what he likes and do what he likes, but I marry you — tomorrow if you like.”
“That’s just it,” said Archie, flushing, “we can’t marry.”
“Why?” she asked, much astonished.
Hope looked at the ground and drew patterns with his cane-point in the sand. They were seated in the hot sunshine — for the Indian summer still continued — under a moldering brick wall, which ran around the most delightful of kitchen gardens. This was situated at the back of the Pyramids, and contained a multiplicity of pot herbs and fruit trees and vegetables. It resembled the Fairy Garden in Madame D’Alnoy’s story of The White Cat, and in the autumn yielded a plentiful crop of fine-flavored fruit. But now the trees were bare and the garden looked somewhat forlorn for lack of greenery. But in spite of the lateness of the season, Lucy often brought a book to read under the glowing wall, and there ripened like a peach in the warm sunshine. On this occasion she brought Archie into the old-world garden, as he had hinted at confidences. And the time had come to speak plainly, as Hope began to think that he had not treated Lucy quite fairly in hiding from her his momentarily embarrassed position.
“Why can’t we marry at once?” asked Lucy, seeing that her lover held his peace and looked confused.
Hope did not reply directly. “I had better release you from your engagement,” he said haltingly.
“Oh!” Lucy’s nostrils dilated and she threw back her head scornfully. “And the other woman’s name?”
“There is no other woman. I love you and you only. But — money.”
“What about money? You have your income!”
“Oh yes — that is sure, small as it is. But I have incurred debts on behalf of an uncle and his family. These have embarrassed me for the moment, and so I cannot see my way to marrying you for at least six months, Lucy.” He caught her hand. “I feel ashamed of myself that I did not tell you of this before. But I feared to lose you. Yet, on reflection, I see that it is dishonorable to keep you in the dark, and if you think that I have behaved badly —”
“Well, I do in a way,” she interrupted quickly, “as your silence was quite unnecessary. Don’t treat me as a doll, my dear. I wish to share your troubles as well as your joys. Come, tell me all about it.”
“You are not angry?”
“Yes, I am — at your thinking I loved you so little as to be biased against our marriage because of money troubles. Pooh!” she flicked away a speck of dust from his coat, “I don’t care that for such things.”
“You are an angel,” he cried ardently.
“I am a very practical girl just now,” she retorted. “Go on, confess!”
Archie, thus encouraged, did so, and it was a very mild confession that she heard, involving a great deal of unnecessary sacrifice in helping a pauper uncle. Hope strove to belittle his good deeds as much as possible, but Lucy saw plainly the good heart that had dictated the giving up of his small income for some years. When in possession of all the facts, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
“You are a silly old boy,” she whispered. “As if what you tell me could make any difference to me!”
“But we can’t be married for six months, dearest.”
“Of course not. Do you believe that I as a woman can gather together my trousseau under six months? No, my dear. We must not marry in haste to repent at leisure. In another half year you will enjoy your own income, and then we can marry.”
“But meanwhile,” said Archie, after kissing her, “the Professor will bother you to marry Random.”
“Oh no. He has sold me to you for one thousand pounds. There! There, do not say a single word. I am only teasing you. Let us say that my father has consented to my marriage with you, and cannot withdraw his word. Not that I care if he does. I am my own mistress.”
“Lucy!”— he took her hands again and looked into her eyes —“Braddock is a scientific lunatic, and would do anything to forward his aims with regard to this very expensive tomb, which he has set his heart on discovering. As I can’t lend or give the money, he is sure to apply to Random, and Random —”
“Will want to marry me,” cried Lucy, rising. “No, my dear, not at all. Sir Frank is a gentleman, and when he learns that I am engaged to you, he will simply become a dear friend. There, don’t worry any more about the matter. You ought to have told me of your troubles before, but as I have forgiven you, there is no more to be said. In six months I shall become Mrs. Hope, and meanwhile I can hold my own against any inconvenience that my father may cause me.”
“But —” He rose and began to remonstrate, anxious to abase himself still further before this angel of a maiden.
She placed her hand over his mouth. “Not another word, or I shall box your ears, sir — that is, I shall exercise the privilege of a wife before I become one. And now,” she slipped her arm within his, “let us go in and see the arrival of the precious mummy.”
“Oh, it has arrived then.”
“Not here exactly. My father expects it at three o’clock.”
“It is now a quarter to,” said Archie, consulting his watch. “As I have been to London all yesterday I did not know that The Diver had arrived at Pierside, How is Bolton?”
Lucy wrinkled her brows. “I am rather worried over Sidney,” she said in an anxious voice, “and so is my father. He had not appeared.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well,” she looked at the ground in a pondering manner, “my father got a letter from Sidney yesterday afternoon, saying that the ship with the mummy and himself on board had arrived about four o’clock. The letter was sent on by special messenger and came at six.”
“Then it arrived in the evening and not in the afternoon?”
“How particular you are!” said Miss Kendal, with a shrug. “Well, then, Sidney said that he could not bring the mummy to this place last night as it was so late. He intended — so he told my father in the letter — to remove the case containing the mummy ashore to an inn near the wharf at Pierside, and there would remain the night so as to take care of it.”
“That’s all right,” said Hope, puzzled. “Where’s your difficulty?”
“A note came from the landlord of the inn this morning, saying that by direction of Mr. Bolton — that is Sidney, you know — he was sending the mummy in its case to Gartley on a lorry, and that it would arrive at three o’clock this afternoon.”
“Well?” asked Hope, still puzzled.
“Well?” she rejoined impatiently. “Can’t you see show strange it is that Sidney should let the mummy out of his sight, after guarding it so carefully not only from Malta to England, but all the night in Pierside at that hotel? Why doesn’t he bring the mummy here himself, and come on with the lorry?”
“There is no explanation — no letter from Sidney Bolton?”
“None. He wrote yesterday, as I stated, saying that he would keep the case in the hotel, and send it on this morning.”
“Did he use the word ‘send,’ or the word ‘bring’?”
“He said ‘send.’”
“Then that shows he did not intend to bring it himself.”
“But why should he not do so?”
“I daresay he will explain when he appears.”
“I am very sorry for him when he does appear,” said Lucy seriously, “for my father is furious. Why, this precious mummy, for which so much has been paid, might have been lost.”
“Pooh! Who would steal a thing like that?”
“A thing like that is worth nearly one thousand pounds,” said Lucy in a dry tone, “and if anyone got wind of it, stealing would be easy, since Sidney, as appears likely, has sent on the case unguarded.”
“Well, let us go in and see if Sidney arrives with the case.”
They passed out of the garden and sauntered round to the front of the house. There, standing in the roadway, they beheld a ponderous lorry with a rough-looking driver standing at the horses’ heads. The front door of the house was open, so the mummy case had apparently arrived before its time, and had been taken to Braddock’s museum while they were chatting in the kitchen garden.
“Did Mr. Bolton come with the case?” asked Lucy, leaning over the railings and addressing the driver.
“No one came, miss, except myself and my two mates, who have taken the case indoor.” The driver jerked a coarse thumb over his shoulder.
“Was Mr. Bolton at the hotel, where the case remained for the night?”
“No, miss — that is, I dunno who Mr. Bolton is. The landlord of the Sailor’s Rest told me and my mates to take the case to this here house, and we done it. That’s all I know, miss.”
“Strange,” murmured Lucy, walking to the front door. “What do you think, Archie? Isn’t it strange?”
Hope nodded. “But I daresay Bolton will explain his absence,” said he, following her. “He will arrive in time to open the mummy case along with the Professor.”
“I hope so,” said Miss Kendal, who looked much perplexed. “I can’t understand Sidney abandoning the case, when it might so easily have been stolen. Come in and see my father, Archie,” and she passed into the house, followed by the young man, whose curiosity was now aroused. As they entered the door, the two men who had taken in the case blundered out and shortly drove away on the lorry towards Jessum railway station.
In the museum they found Braddock purple with rage and swearing vigorously. He was staring at a large packing case, which had been set up on end against the wall, while beside him crouched Cockatoo, holding chisels and hammers and wedges necessary to open the treasure trove.
“So the precious mummy has arrived, father,” said Lucy, who saw that the Professor was furious. “Are you not pleased?”
“Pleased! pleased!” shouted the angry man of science. “How can I be pleased when I see how badly the case has been treated? See how it has been bruised and battered and shaken! I’ll have an action against Captain Hervey of The Diver if my mummy has been injured. Sidney should have taken better care of so precious an object.”
“What does he say?” asked Archie, glancing round the museum to see if the delinquent had arrived.
“Say!” shouted Braddock again, and snatching a chisel from Cockatoo. “Oh, what can he say when he is not here?”
“Not here?” said Lucy, more and more surprised at the unaccountable absence of Braddock’s assistant. “Where is he, then?”
“I don’t know. I wish I did; I’d have him arrested for neglecting to watch over this case. As it is, when he comes back I’ll dismiss him from my employment. He can go back to his infernal laundry work along with his old witch of a mother.”
“But why hasn’t Bolton come back, sir?” asked Hope sharply.
Braddock struck a furious blow at the head of the chisel which he had inserted into the case.
“I want to know that. He brought the case to the Sailor’s Rest, and should have come on with it this morning. Instead of doing so, he tells the landlord — a most unreliable man — to send it on. And my precious mummy — the mummy that has cost nine hundred pounds,” cried Braddock, working furiously, and battering the chisel as though it were Bolton’s head, “is left to be stolen by any scientific thief that comes along.” While the Professor, assisted by Cockatoo, loosened the lid of the packing case, a mild voice was heard at the door. Lucy turned, as did Archie, to see Widow Anne curtseying on the threshold of the door.
Braddock himself took no notice of her entrance, being occupied with his task, and even while doing it swore scientifically under his breath. He was furious against Bolton for neglect of duty, and Hope rather sympathized with him. It was a serious matter to have left a valuable object like the green mummy to the rough care of laborers.
“I beg your pardon, my lady,” whimpered Widow Anne, who looked more lean and rusty and dismal than ever; “but has my Sid come? I saw the cart and the coffin. Where’s my boy?”
“Coffin! coffin!” bellowed Braddock angrily between thunder blows. “What do you mean by calling this case a coffin?”
“Well, it do hold one of them camphorated corps, sir,” said Mrs. Bolton with another curtsey. “My boy Sid told me as much, afore he went to them furren parts.”
“Have you seen him since he returned?” questioned Lucy, while Braddock and Cockatoo strained at the lid, now nearly off.
“Why, I ain’t set eyes on him,” moaned the widow dismally, “and summat tells me as I never will.”
“Don’t talk rubbish, woman,” said Archie tartly, for he did not wish Lucy to be upset again by this ancient ghoul.
“Woman indeed, sir. I’d have you know — oh!” the widow jumped and quavered as the lid of the packing case fell on the floor with a bang. “Oh lor, sir, the start you did give me!”
But Braddock had no eyes for her, and no ears for anyone. He pulled lustily at the straw packing, and soon the floor was littered with rubbish. But no green case appeared, and no mummy. Suddenly Widow Anne shrieked again.
“There’s my Sid — dead — oh, my son, dead! dead!”
She spoke truly. The body of Sidney Bolton was before them.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09