Chapter XVII. Circumstantial Evidence

Random was so taken aback by the fierce accusation of the Professor that he stood suddenly still at the door, and did not advance into the room. Yet he did not look so much afraid as puzzled. Whatever Braddock might have thought, Hope, from the expression on the young soldier's face, was more than ever satisfied of his innocence.

"What are you talking about, Professor?" asked Random, genuinely surprised.

"You know well enough," retorted the Professor.

"Upon my word I don't," said the other, walking into the room and unbuckling his sword. "I find you here, with the contents of my bookcase on the floor, and you promptly accuse me of being guilty. Of what, I should like to know? Perhaps you can tell me Hope."

"There is no need for Hope to tell you, sir. You are perfectly well aware of your own villainy."

Random frowned.

"I allow a certain amount of latitude to my guests, Professor," he said with marked dignity, "but for a man of your age and position you go too far. Be more explicit."

"Allow me to speak," intervened Archie, anticipating Braddock. "Random, the Professor has just had a visit from Captain Hiram Hervey, who was the skipper of The Diver. He accuses you of having murdered Bolton "

"What?" the baronet started back, looking thunderstruck.

"Wait a moment. I have not finished yet. Hervey accuses you of this murder, of stealing the mummy, of gaining possession of the emeralds, and of placing the rifled corpse in Mrs. Jasher's garden, so that she might be accused of committing the crime."

"Exactly," cried Braddock, seeing that his host remained silent from sheer surprise. "Hope has stated the case very clearly. Now, sir, your defense?"

"Defense! defense!" Random found his tongue at last and spoke indignantly. "I have no defense to make."

"Ah! Then you acknowledge your guilt?"

"I acknowledge nothing. The accusation is too preposterous for any denial to be necessary. Do you believe this of me?" He looked from one to the other.

"I don't," said Archie quickly, "there is some mistake."

"Thank you, Hope. And you, Professor?"

Braddock fidgeted about the room.

"I don't know what to think," he said at length. "Hervey spoke very decisively."

"Oh, indeed," returned Random dryly, and, walking to the door, he locked it. "In that case, I must ask you for an explanation, and neither of you shall leave this room until one is given. Your proofs?"

"Here is one of them," snapped Braddock, throwing the manuscript on the table. "Where did you get this?"

Random took up the discolored paper with a bewildered air.

"I never set eyes on this before," he said, much puzzled. "What is it?"

"A copy of the manuscript mentioned by Don Pedro, which describes the two emeralds buried with the mummy of Inca Caxas"

"I see." Random understood all in a moment. "So you say that I knew of the emeralds from this, and so murdered Bolton to obtain them."

"Pardon me," said Braddock with elaborate politeness. "Hervey says that you murdered my poor assistant, and although my discovery of this manuscript proves that you must have known about the jewels, I say nothing. I wait to hear your defense."

"That's very good of you," remarked Sir Frank ironically. "So it seems that I am in the dock. Perhaps the counsel for the prosecution will state the evidence against me," and he looked again from one to the other.

Archie shook the baronet by the hand very warmly.

"My dear fellow," he declared decidedly, "I don't believe one word of the evidence."

"In that case there must be a flaw in it," retorted Random, but did not seem to be unmoved by Hope's generous action. "Sit down, Professor; it appears that you are against me."

"Until I hear your defense," said the old man obstinately.

"I cannot make any until I hear your evidence. Go on. I am waiting," and Sir Frank flung himself into a chair, where he sat calmly, his eyes steadily fixed on the Professor's face.

"Where did you get that manuscript?" asked Braddock sharply.

"I got it nowhere: this is the first time I have seen it."

"Yet it was hidden amongst your books."

"Then I can't say how it got there. Were you looking for it,?"

"No! Certainly not. To pass the time while waiting, I examined your library, and in pulling out a book, your case, being a swing one, over-balanced and shot its contents on to the floor. Amongst the papers which fell with the books, I caught a glimpse of the manuscript, and, noting that it was written in Latin, I picked it up, surprised to think that a frivolous young man, such as you are, should study a dead language. A few words showed me that the manuscript was a copy of the one referred to by Don Pedro."

"One moment," said Archie, who had been thinking. "Perhaps this is the original manuscript, which De Gayangos has given to you, Random."

"It is good of you to afford me a loophole of escape," said Sir Frank, leaning back with folded arms, "but De Gayangos gave me nothing. I saw the manuscript in his hands, when he showed it to us all at Mrs. Jasher's. But whether this is the original or a copy I can't say. Don Pedro certainly did not give it to me."

"Has Don Pedro been in your quarters?" asked Hope thoughtfully.

"No. He has only visited me in the mess. And even if Don Pedro did come in here - for I guess what is in your mind - I really do not see why he should slip a manuscript which he values highly amongst my books."

"Then you really never saw this before?" said Braddock, indicating the paper on the table, and impressed by Random's earnestness.

"How often do you want me to deny it?" retorted the young man impatiently. "Perhaps you will state on what grounds I am accused?"

Braddock nodded and cleared his throat.

"Captain Hervey declared that your yacht arrived at Pierside almost at the same time as his steamer."

"Quite right. When Don Pedro received a wire from Malta stating that the mummy had been sold to you, and that it was being shipped to London on The Diver, I got up steam at once, and chased the tramp to that port. As the tramp was slow, and my boat was fast, I arrived on the same day and almost at the same hour, even though Hervey's boat had the start of mine."

"Why were you anxious to follow The Diver?" asked Hope.

"Don Pedro wished to get back the mummy, and asked me to follow. As I was in love with Donna Inez, and still am, I was only too willing to oblige him."

Braddock nodded again.

"Hervey says that you went on board The Diver, and had an interview with Bolton."

"That is perfectly true, and my visit was paid for the same reason as I followed the steamer to London - that is, I acted on behalf of Don Pedro. I wished to ascertain for certain that the mummy was on board, and having done so from Bolton, I urged him to induce you to give back the same, free of charge, to De Gayangos, from whom it had been stolen. He refused, as he declared that he intended to deliver it to you."

"I knew I could always trust Bolton," said the Professor enthusiastically. "It would have been better for you to have come to me, Random."

"I daresay; but I wished, as I told you, to make certain that the mummy was on board. That was the real reason for my visit; but, being in Bolton's company, I naturally told him that Don Pedro claimed the mummy as his property, and warned him that if you or he kept the same, that there would be trouble."

"Did you use threats?" asked Hope, remembering what he had overheard.

"No; certainly not."

"Yes, you did," cried Braddock quickly. "Hervey declares that you told Bolton that he would repent of keeping the mummy, and that his life would not be safe while he held it."

To the surprise of both visitors, Random admitted using these serious threats without a moment's hesitation.

"Don Pedro told me that many Indians, both in Lima and Cuzco, who look upon him as the lawful descendant of the last Inca, are anxiously expecting the return of the royal mummy. He also stated that when the Indians knew who held the mummy they would send one of themselves to get it back, if he - Don Pedro, that is - did not fetch it. To get back the mummy Don Pedro declared that these Indians would not stop short of murder. Hence my warning to Bolton."

"Oh!" Archie jumped up with widely opened eyes. "Then perhaps this solves the problem. Bolton was murdered by some Peruvian Indian."

Random shook his head gravely.

"Again you offer me a loophole of escape, my dear fellow," he said sententiously, "but that theory will not hold water. At present the Indians in Lima and Cuzco do not know that the mummy has been found. Don Pedro only chanced upon the paper which announced the sale by accident and had no time to communicate with his barbaric friends in South America. Failing to get the mummy from you, Professor, he would have returned to Peru and then would have told who possessed the corpse of Inca Caxas, leaving the Indians to deal with the matter. In that case my warning to Bolton would be necessary. But at the time I told him, it was not necessary. However, Bolton remained true to you, Professor, and declined to surrender the mummy. I therefore wired to Don Pedro at Genoa that the mummy was on board. The Diver and was being sent to Gartley. I also advised him to come to me here in order to be introduced to you. The rest you know."

There was a moment's silence. Then Archie, to test if Random was willing to admit everything - as an innocent man certainly would-asked significantly

"Did you see Bolton again after your interview on board ship?"

It was then that the baronet proved his good faith.

"Oh, yes," he said easily and without hesitation. "I was walking about Pierside later, and, passing along that waterside alley near the Sailor's Rest, I saw a window on the ground floor open, and Bolton looking out across the river. I stopped and asked him when he proposed to take the mummy to Gartley, and if it was on shore. He admitted that it was in the hotel, but declined to say when he would send it on to you, Professor. When he closed the window, I afterwards went into the hotel and had a drink in order to ask casually when Mr. Bolton intended to leave. I gathered - not directly, of course, but in a roundabout way - that he had arranged to go next morning and to send on his luggage. Then I left and went to London. In the course of time I returned here and learned of the murder and the disappearance of the corpse of Inca Caxas. And now," Random stood up, "having admitted all this, perhaps you will believe me to be innocent."

"You have no idea who murdered Bolton and placed his body in the packing case?" asked Braddock, manifestly disappointed.

"'No. No more than I have any idea of the person who placed the mummy case and its contents in Mrs. Jasher's garden."

"Oh, you know that!" said Archie quickly.

"Yes. The news was all over the village this morning. I could hardly help knowing it. And I believe that the mummy has been taken to your house, Professor."

"It has," admitted Braddock dryly. "I took it myself from Mrs. Jasher's arbor in a hand-cart, with the assistance of Cockatoo. But when I made an examination this morning in the presence of Hope and Don Pedro, I found that the swathings of the body had been ripped up, and that the emeralds mentioned in that manuscript had been stolen."

"Strange!" said Random with a frown; "and by whom?"

"No doubt by the assassin of Sidney Bolton."

"Probably." Random kicked a mat straight with his foot. "At any rate the theft of the emeralds shows that it was not any Indian who killed Bolton. None of them would rifle so sacred a corpse."

"Besides which - as you say - the Indians in Peru do not know that the mummy has reappeared after thirty years' seclusion," chimed in Hope, rising. "Well, and what is to be done now?"

For answer Sir Frank picked up the manuscript which still remained on the table.

"I shall see Don Pedro about this," he said quietly, "and ascertain if it is the original or a copy."

Braddock rose slowly and stared at the paper.

"Do you know Latin?" he asked.

"No," rejoined Random, knowing what the savant meant. "I learned it, of course, but I have forgotten much. I might translate a word or two, but certainly not the hedge-priest Latin in which this is written." He looked carefully at the manuscript as he spoke.

"But who could have placed it in your room?" questioned Archie.

"We cannot learn that until we see Don Pedro. If this is the original manuscript which we saw the other night, we may learn how it passed from the possession of De Gayangos to my bookcase. If it is a copy, then we must learn, if possible, who owned it."

"Don Pedro said that a transcript or a translation had been made," mentioned Hope.

"Evidently a transcript," said Braddock, glaring at the paper in Random's hand. "But how could that find its way from Lima to this place?"

"It might have been packed up with the mummy," suggested Archie.

"No," contradicted Random decisively, "in that event, the man in Malta from whom the mummy was bought would have discovered the emeralds, and would have taken them."

"Perhaps he did. We have nothing to show that Bolton's assassin committed the crime for the sake of the jewels."

"He must have done so," cried the Professor, irritably, "else there is no motive for the commission of the crime. But I think myself that we must start at the other end to find a clue. When we discover who placed the mummy in Mrs. Jasher's garden - "

"That will not be easy," murmured Hope thoughtfully, "though, of course, the same must have been brought by river. Let us go down to the embankment and see if there are any signs of a boat having been brought there last night," and he moved to the door. "Random?"

"I cannot leave the Fort, as I am on duty," replied the officer, putting the manuscript away in a drawer and locking the same, "but this evening I shall see Don Pedro, and in the meanwhile I shall endeavor to learn from my servant who visited me lately while I was absent. The manuscript must have been brought here by someone. But I trust," he added as he escorted his two visitors to the door, "that you now acquit me of - "

"Yes! yes! yes!" cried Braddock, hastily cutting him short and shaking his hand. "I apologize for my suspicions. Now I maintain that you are innocent."

"And I never believed you to be guilty," cried Hope heartily.

"Thank you both," said Random simply, and, having closed the door, he returned to a chair near the fire to smoke a pipe, and meditate over his future movements. "An enemy hath done this," said Random, referring to the concealment of the manuscript, but he could think of no one who desired to harm him in any way.