Chapter XII. A Discovery

Three days went by, and Professor Braddock still remained absent in London, although an occasional letter to Lucy requested such and such an article from the museum to be forwarded, sometimes by post and on other occasions by Cockatoo, who traveled up to town especially. The Kanaka always returned with the news that his master was looking well, but brought no word of the Professor's return. Lucy was not surprised, as she Was accustomed to Braddock's vagaries.

Meanwhile Don Pedro, comfortably established at the Warrior Inn, wandered about Gartley in his dignified way, taking very little interest in the village, but a great deal in the Pyramids. As the Professor was absent, Lucy could not ask him to dinner, but she did invite him and Donna Inez to afternoon tea. Don Pedro was anxious to peep into the museum, but Cockatoo absolutely refused to let him enter, saying that his master had forbidden anyone to view the collection during his absence. And in this refusal Cockatoo was supported by Miss Kendal, who had a wholesome dread of her step-father's rage, should he return and find that a stranger had been making free of his sacred apartments. The Peruvian gentleman expressed himself extremely disappointed, so much so, indeed, that Lucy fancied he believed Braddock had the green mummy hidden in the museum, in spite of the reported loss from the Sailor's Rest.

Failing to get permission to range through the rooms of the Pyramids, Don Pedro paid occasional visits to Pierside and questioned the police regarding the Bolton murder. From Inspector Date he learned nothing of any importance, and indeed that officer expressed his belief that not until the Day of judgment would the truth become known. It then occurred to De Gayangos to explore the neighborhood of the Sailor's Rest, and to examine that public-house himself. He saw the famous window through which the mysterious woman had talked to the deceased, and noted that it looked across a stony, narrow path to the water's edge, wherefrom a rugged jetty ran out into the stream for some little distance. Nothing would have been easier, reflected Don Pedro, than for the assassin to enter by the window, and, having accomplished his deed, to leave in the same way, bearing the case containing the mummy. A few steps would carry the man and his burden to a waiting boat, and once the craft slipped into the mists on the river, all trace would be lost, as had truly happened. In this way the Peruvian gentleman believed the murder and the theft had been accomplished, but even supposing things had happened as he surmised, still, he was as far as ever from unraveling the mystery.

While Don Pedro searched for his royal ancestor's corpse, and incidentally for the thief and murderer, his daughter was being wooed by Sir Frank Random. Heaven only knows what he saw in her - as Lucy observed to young Hope - for the girl had not a word to say for herself. She was undeniably handsome, and dressed with great taste, save for stray hints of barbaric delight in color, doubtless inherited from her Inca ancestors. All the same, she appeared to be devoid of small talk or great talk, or any talk whatsoever. She sat and smiled and looked like a handsome picture, but after her appearance had satisfied the eye, she left much to be desired. Yet Sir Frank approved of her stately quietness, and seemed anxious to make her his wife. Lucy, in spite of the fact that he had so speedily got over her refusal to marry him, was anxious that he should be happy with Donna Inez, whom he appeared to love, and afforded him every opportunity of meeting the lady, so that he might prosecute his wooing. All the same, she wondered that he should desire to marry an iceberg, and Donna Inez, with her silent tongue and cold smiles, was little else. However, as Frank Random was the chief party concerned in the love-making - for Donna Inez was merely passive - there was no more to be said.

Sometimes Hope came to dine at the Pyramids, and on these occasions Mrs. Jasher was present in her character of chaperon. As Miss Kendal was helping the widow to marry Professor Braddock, she in her turn did her best to speed Archie's wooing. Certainly the young couple were engaged and there was no understanding to be brought about. Nevertheless, Mrs. Jasher was a useful article of furniture to be in the room when they were together, for Gartley, like all English villages, was filled with scandalmongers, who would have talked, had Hope and Lucy not employed Mrs, Jasher as gooseberry. Sometimes Donna Inez came with the widow, while her father was hunting for the mummy in Pierside, and then Sir Frank Random would be sure to put in an appearance to woo his Dulcinea in admiring silence. Mrs. Jasher declared that the two must have made love by telepathy, for they rarely exchanged a word. But this was all the better, as Archie and Lucy chattered a great deal, and two pair of magpies - Mrs. Jasher declared - would have been too much for her nerves. She made a very good chaperon, as she allowed the young people to act as they pleased, only sanctioning the meetings by her elderly presence.

One evening Mrs. Jasher was due to dinner, and Hope had already arrived. No one else was expected, as Don Pedro had taken his daughter to the theatre at Pierside and Sir Frank had gone to London in connection with his military duties. It was a bitterly cold night, and already a fall of snow had hinted that there was to be a real English Christmas of the genuine kind. Lucy had prepared an excellent dinner for three, and Archie had brought a set of new patience cards for Mrs. Jasher, who was fond of the game. While the widow played, the lovers hoped to make love undisturbed, and looked forward to a happy evening. But there was one drawback, for although the dinner hour was supposed to be eight o'clock, and it was now thirty minutes past, Mrs. Jasher had not arrived. Lucy was dismayed.

"What can be keeping her?" she asked Archie, to which that young gentleman replied that he did not know, and, what was more, he did not care. Miss Kendal very properly rebuked this sentiment. "You ought to care, Archie, for you know that if Mrs. Jasher does not come to dinner, you will have to go away."

"Why should I?" he inquired sulkily.

"People will talk."

"Let them. I don't care.

"Neither do I, you stupid boy. But my father will care, and if people talk he will be very angry."

"My dear Lucy," and Archie put his arm round her waist to say this, "I don't see why you should be afraid of the Professor. He is only your step-father, and you aren't so very fond of him as to mind what he says. Besides, we can marry soon, and then he can go hang."

"But I don't want him to go hang," she replied, laughing. "After all, the Professor has always been kind to me, and as a step-father has behaved very well, when he could easily have made himself disagreeable. Another thing is that he can be very bad tempered when he likes, and if I let people talk about us - which they will do if they get a chance - he will behave so coldly to me, that I shall have a disagreeable time. As we can't marry for ever so long, I don't want to be uncomfortable."

"We can marry whenever you like," said Hope unexpectedly.

"What, with your income so unsettled?"

"It is not unsettled."

"Yes, it is. You will help that horrid spendthrift uncle of yours, and until he and his family are solvent I don't see how we can be sure of our money."

"We are sure of it now, dearest. Uncle Simon has turned up trumps after all, and so have his investments."

"What do you mean exactly?"

"I mean that yesterday I received a letter from him saying that he was now rich, and would pay back all I had lent him. I went up to London to-day, and had an interview. The result of that is that I am some thousands to the good, that Uncle Simon is well off for the rest of his life and will require no more assistance, and that my three hundred a year is quite clear for ever and ever and ever."

"Then we can marry," cried Miss Kendal with a gasp of delight.

"Whenever you choose - next week if you like."

"In January then - just after Christmas. "We'll go on a trip to Italy and return to take a flat in London. Oh, Archie, I am sorry I thought so badly of your uncle. He has behaved very well. And what a mercy it is that he will require no more assistance! You are sure he will not."

"If he does, he won't get it," said Hope candidly. "While I was a bachelor I could assist him; but when I am married I must look after myself and my wife." He gave Lucy a hug. "It's all right now, dear, and Uncle Simon has behaved excellently - far better than I expected. We shall go to Italy for the honeymoon and need not hurry back until we - well, say until we quarrel."

"In that case we shall live in Italy for the rest of our lives," said Lucy with twinkling eyes; "but we must come back in a year and take a studio in Chelsea."

"Why not in Gartley?" Remember, the Professor will be lonely."

"No, he won't. Mrs. Jasher, as I told you, intends to marry him."

"He might not wish, to marry her"

"That doesn't matter," rejoined Lucy, with the cleverness of a woman. "She can manage to bring the marriage about. Besides, I want to break with the old life here, and begin quite a new one with you. When I am your wife and Mrs. Jasher is my step-father's, everything will be capitally arranged."

"Well, I hope so," said Archie heartily, "for I want you all to myself and have no desire to share you with ,anyone else. But I say," he glanced at his watch; "it is getting towards nine o'clock, and I am desperately hungry. Can't we go to dinner?"

"Not until Mrs. Jasher arrives," said Lucy primly.

"Oh, bother -!"

Hope, being quite exasperated with hunger, would have launched out into a speech condemning the widow's unpunctuality, when in the hall below the drawing-room was heard the sound of the door opening and closing. Without doubt this was Mrs. Jasher arriving at last, and Lucy ran out of the room and down the stairs to welcome her in her eagerness to get Archie seated at the dinner table. The young man lingered by the open door of the drawing-room, ready to welcome the widow, when he heard Lucy utter an exclamation of surprise and became aware that she was ascending the stairs along with Professor Braddock. At once he reflected there would be trouble, since he was in the house with Lucy, and lacked the necessary chaperon which Braddock's primitive Anglo-Saxon instincts insisted upon.

"I did not know you were returning to-night," Lucy was saying when she re-entered the drawing-room with her stepfather.

"I arrived by the six o'clock train," explained the Professor, unwinding a large red scarf from his neck, and struggling out of his overcoat with the assistance of his daughter. "Ha, Hope, good evening."

"Where have you been since?" asked Lucy, throwing the Professor's coat and wraps on to a chair.

"With Mrs. Jasher," said Braddock, warming his plump hands at the fire. "So you must blame me that she is not here to preside at dinner as the chaperon of you young people."

Lucy and her lover glanced at one-another in surprise. This light and airy tone was a new one for the Professor to take. Instead of being angry, he seemed to be un usually gay, and looked at them in quite a jocular manner for a dry-as-dust scientist.

"We waited dinner for her, father," ventured Lucy timidly.

"Then I am ready to eat it," announced Braddock. "I am extremely hungry, my dear. I can't live on love, you know."

"Live on love?" Lucy stared, and Archie laughed quietly.

"Oh yes, you may smile and look astonished;' went on the Professor good-humoredly, "but science does not destroy the primeval instincts entirely. Lucy, my dear," he took her hand and patted it, "while in London and in lodgings, it was borne in upon me forcibly how lonely I was and how lonely I would be when you married our young friend yonder. I had intended to come down to-morrow, but to-night, such was my feeling of loneliness that I considered favorably your idea that I should find a second helpmate in Mrs. Jasher. I have always had a profound admiration for that lady, and so - on the spur of the moment, as I may say - I decided to come down this evening and propose."

"Oh," Lucy clapped her hands, very well satisfied with the unexpected news, "and have you?"

"Mrs. Jasher," said the Professor gravely, "did me the honor to promise to become my wife this evening."

"She will become your wife this evening?" said Archie, smiling.

Braddock, with one of those odd twists of humor which were characteristic of him, became irascible.

"Confound it, sir, don't I speak English," he snapped, with his eyes glaring rebuke. "She promised this evening to become Mrs. Braddock. We shall marry - so we have arranged - in the springtime, which is the natural pairing season for human beings as well as for birds. And I am glad to say that Mrs; Jasher takes a deep interest in archaeology."

"And, what is more, she is a splendid housekeeper," said Lucy.

The temporary anger of the Professor vanished. He drew his step-daughter towards him and kissed her on the cheek.

"I believe that I have to thank you for putting the idea into my head," said he, "and also - if Mrs. Jasher is to be believed - for aiding her to see the mutual advantage it would be to both of us to marry. Ha," he released Lucy and rubbed his hands, "let us go to dinner."

"I am very glad," said Miss Kendal heartily.

"So am I, so am I," replied Braddock, nodding. "As you very truly observed, my child, the house would have gone to rack and ruin without a woman to look after my interests. Well," he took the arms of the two young people, "I really think that we must have a bottle of champagne on the strength of it."

Shortly the trio were seated at the table, and Braddock explained that Mrs. Jasher, being overcome by his proposal, had not been able to face the ordeal of congratulations.

"But she will come to-morrow," said he, as Cockatoo filled three glasses.

"Indeed, I shall congratulate her to-night," said Lucy obstinately. "As soon as dinner is over, I shall go with Archie to her house, and tell her how pleased I am."

"It is very cold for you to be out, Lucy dear," urged Archie anxiously.

"Oh, I can wrap up warmly," she answered.

Strange to say, the Professor made no objection to the excursion, although Hope quite expected such a stickler for etiquette to refuse permission to his stepdaughter. But Braddock seemed rather pleased than otherwise. His proposal of marriage seemed to have put him into excellent humor, and he raised his glass with a chuckle.

"I drink to your happiness, my dear Lucy, and to that of Mrs. Jasher's."

"And I drink to Archie's and to yours, father," she replied. "I am glad that you will not be lonely when we are married. Archie and I wish to become one in January."

"Yes," said Hope, finishing his champagne, "my income is now all right, as my uncle has paid up."

"Very good, very good. I make no objection," said Braddock placidly. "I will give you a handsome wedding present, Lucy, for you may have heard that my future wife has money left to her by her brother, who was lately a merchant in Pekin. She is heart and hand with me in our proposed expedition to Egypt."

"Will you go there for the honeymoon, sir?" asked Hope.

"Not exactly for the honeymoon, since we are to be married in spring, and my expedition to the tomb of Queen Tahoser cannot start until the late autumn. But Mrs. Braddock will come with me. That is only just, since it will be her money which will furnish the sinews of war."

"Well, everything is arranged very well," said Lucy. "I marry Archie; you, father, make Mrs. Jasher your wife; and I suspect Sir Frank will marry Donna Inez."

"Ha!" said Braddock with a start, "the daughter of De Gayangos, who has come here for the missing mummy. Mrs. Jasher told me somewhat of that, my dear'. But I shall see Don Pedro myself to-morrow. Meanwhile, let us eat and drink. I must go down to the museum, and you - "

"We shall go to congratulate Mrs. Jasher," said Lucy.

So it was arranged, and shortly Professor Braddock retired into his sanctum along with the devoted Cockatoo, who displayed lively joy on beholding his master once more. Lucy, after being carefully wrapped up by Archie, set out with that young man to congratulate the bride-elect. It was just half-past nine when they started out.

The night was frosty and the stars twinkled like jewels in a cloudless sky of dark blue. The moon shone with hard brilliance on the ground, which was powdered with a light fall of snow. As the young people walked briskly through the village, their footsteps rang on the frosty earth and they scrunched the snow in their quick tread. The Warrior Inn was still open, as it was not late, and lights shone from the windows of the various cottages. When the two, following the road through the marshes, emerged from the village, they saw the great mass of the Fort bulking blackly against the clear sky, the glittering stream of the Thames, and the marshes outlined in delicate white. The fairy world of snow and moonlight appealed to Archie's artistic sense, and Lucy approving of the same, they did not hurry to arrive at their destination.

But shortly they saw the squarely fenced acre of ground near the embankment, wherein Mrs. Jasher's humble abode was placed. Light shone through the pink curtains of the drawing-room, showing that the widow had not yet retired. In a few minutes the lovers were at the gate and promptly entered. It was then that one of those odd things happened which would argue that some people are possessed of a sixth sense.

Archie closed the gate after him, and, glancing right and left, walked up the snowy path with Lucy. To the right was a leafless arbor, also powdered with snow, and against the white bulked a dark form something like a coffin. Hope out of curiosity went up to it.

"What the deuce is this?" he asked himself; then raised his voice in loud surprise. "Lucy! Lucy! come here!"

"What is it?" she asked, running up.

"Look" - he pointed to the oddly shaped case - "the green mummy!"