Chapter XXV. The Mills of God

In the cold gray hours of the morning, Hope and his friend left the cottage wherein such a tragedy had taken place. The dead woman was lying stiff and white on her bed under a winding sheet, which had already been strewn with many-hued chrysanthemums taken from the pink parlor by the weeping Jane. The wretched woman who had led so stormy and unhappy a life had at least one sincere mourner, for she had always been kind to the servant, who formed her entire domestic staff, and Jane would not hear a word said against the dead. Not that anyone did say anything; for Random and Hope kept the contents of the confession to themselves. There would be time enough for Mrs. Jasher's reputation to be smirched when those same contents were made public.

When the poor woman died, Random left the doctor and the servant to look after the corpse, and went into the parlor. Here he met Hope with the confession in his hand. Luckily, Painter was not in the room at the moment, else he would have prevented the artist from taking away the same. Hope - as directed by Mrs. Jasher - had found the confession, written on many sheets, lying on the desk. It broke off abruptly towards the end, and was not signed. Apparently at this point Mrs. Jasher had been interrupted - as she had said - by the tapping of Cockatoo at the window. Probably she had admitted him at once, and on her refusal to give him the emerald, and on her confessing what she had written, he had overturned the lights for the purpose of murdering her. Only too well had the Kanaka succeeded in his wickedness.

Archie slipped the confession into his pocket before the policeman returned, and then left the cottage with Random and the doctor, since nothing else could now be done. It was between seven and eight, and the chilly dawn was breaking, but the sea-mist still lay heavily over the marshes, as though it were the winding sheet of the dead. Robinson went to his own house to get his trap and drive into Jessum, there to catch the train and ferry to Pierside. It was necessary that Inspector Date should be informed of this new tragedy without delay, and as Constable Painter was engaged in watching the cottage, there was no messenger available but Dr. Robinson. Random indeed offered to send a soldier, or to afford Robinson the use of the Fort telephone, but the doctor preferred to see Date personally, so as to detail exactly what had happened. Perhaps the young medical man had an eye to becoming better known, for the improvement of his practice; but he certainly seemed anxious to take a prominent part in the proceedings connected with the murder of Mrs. Jasher.

When Robinson parted from them, Random and Hope went to the lodgings of the latter, so as to read over the confession and learn exactly to what extent Mrs. Jasher had been mixed up in the tragedy of the green mummy. She had declared herself innocent even on her death-bed, and so far as the two could judge at this point, she certainly had not actually strangled Sidney Bolton. But it might be - and it appeared to be more than probable - that she was an accessory after the fact. But this they could learn from the confession, and they sat in Hope's quiet little sitting-room, in which the fire had been just lighted by the artist's landlady, with the scattered sheets neatly ranged before them.

"Perhaps you would like a cup of coffee, or a whisky and soda," suggested Archie, "before starting to read?"

"I should," assented Random, who looked weary and pale. "The events of the night have somewhat knocked me up. Coffee for choice - nice, black, strong, hot coffee."

Hope nodded and went to order the same. When he returned he sat down, after closing the door carefully, and proceeded to read. But before he could speak Random raised his hand.

"Let us chat until the coffee comes in," he said; "then we shall not be interrupted when reading."

"All right," said Hope. "Have a cigar!"

"No, thanks. I have been smoking all the night. I shall sit here by the fire and wait for the coffee. You look chippy yourself."

"And small wonder," said Archie wearily. "We little thought when we left the Fort last night what a time we were going to have. Fancy Mrs. Jasher having sent you the emerald after all!"

"Yes. She repented, as she said, and yet I dare say - as she also said - she was sorry that she acted on her impulse. If she had not been stabbed by that damned Cockatoo, she would no doubt have destroyed that confession. I expect she wrote that also on the impulse of the moment."

"She confessed as much," said Hope, leaning his head on his hand and staring into the fire. "She must have been cognizant of the truth all along. I wonder if she was an accessory before or after the fact?"

"What I wonder," said Random, after a moment's thought, "is, what Braddock has to do with the matter?"

Hope raised his head in surprise.

"Why, nothing. Mrs. Jasher did not say a word against Braddock."

"I know that. All the same, Cockatoo was completely under the thumb of the Professor, and probably was instructed by him to strangle Bolton."

"That is impossible," cried the artist, much agitated. "Think of what you are saying, Random. What a terrible thing it would be for Lucy if the Professor were guilty in such a way as you suggest!"

"Really, I fail to see that. Miss Kendal is no relation to Braddock save by marriage. His iniquities have nothing to do with her, or with you."

"But it's impossible, I tell you, Random. Throughout the whole of this case Braddock has acted in a perfectly innocent way."

"That's just it," said Sir Frank caustically; "he has acted. In spite of his pretended grief for the loss of the emeralds, I should not be surprised to learn from that," he nodded towards the confession on the table, "that he was in possession of the missing gem. Cockatoo had no reason to steal the emeralds himself, setting aside the fact that he probably would not know their value, being but a semi-civilized savage. He acted under orders from his master, and although Cockatoo strangled Bolton, the Professor is really the author and the gainer and the moving spirit."

"You would make Braddock an accessory before the fact."

"Yes, and Mrs. Jasher an accessory after the fact. Cockatoo is the link, as the actual criminal, who joins the two in a guilty partnership. No wonder Braddock intended to make that woman his wife even though he did not love her, for she knew a jolly sight too much for his peace of mind."

"This is horrible," murmured Hope desperately; "but it is mere theory. We cannot be sure until we read the confession."

"We'll be sure soon, then, for here comes the coffee."

This last remark Random made when a timid knock came to the door, and a moment later the landlady entered with a tray bearing cups, saucers, and a jug of steaming coffee., She was a meek, reticent woman who entered and departed in dismal silence, and in a few moments the two young men were quite alone with the door closed. They drank a cup of coffee each, and then Hope proceeded to read the confession.

The story told by Mrs. Jasher commenced with a short account of her early life. It appeared that her father was a ruined gentleman and a gambler, and that her mother had been an actress. She was dragged up in a Bohemian sort of way until she attained a marriageable age, when her mother, who seemed to have been both wicked and hard-hearted, forced her to marry a comparatively wealthy man called Jasher. The elderly husband - for Jasher was not young - treated his wife very badly, and, infected with the spirit of gambling by her father, lost all his money. Mrs. Jasher then went with him to America and performed on the stage in order to keep the home together. She had one child, but it died, much to her grief, yet also much to her relief, as she was so miserable and poor. Mrs. Jasher gave a scanty account of sordid years of trouble and trial, of failure and sorrow. She and her husband roamed all over America, and then went to Australia and New Zealand, where they lived a wretched existence for many years. Finally the husband died of strong drink at an advanced age, leaving Mrs. Jasher a somewhat elderly widow.

The poor woman again took to the stage and tried to earn her bread, but was unsuccessful. Afterwards she lectured. Then she kept a boarding establishment, and finally went out as a nurse. In every way, it would seem, she tried to keep her head above water, and roamed the world like a bird of passage, finding rest nowhere for the sole of her foot. Yet throughout her story both the young men could see that she had always aspired to a quiet and decent, respectable existence, and that only force of circumstances had flung her into the whirlpool of life.

"As I said," remarked Random at this stage, "the miserable creature was more sinned against than sinning."

"Her moral sense seemed to have become blunted, however," said Archie doubtfully.

"And small wonder, amidst such surroundings; but it seems to me that she was much better under the circumstances than many another woman would have been. Go on."

In Melbourne Mrs. Jasher made a lucky speculation in mines, which brought her one thousand pounds. With this she came to England, and resolved to make a bid for respectability. Chance led her into the neighborhood of Gartley, and thinking that if she set up her tent in this locality she might manage to marry an officer from the Fort - since amidst such dismal surroundings a young man might be the more easily fascinated by a woman of the world - she took the cottage amidst the marshes at a small rent. Here she hoped to eke out what money she had left - a few hundreds - until the coveted marriage should take place. Afterwards she met Professor Braddock and determined to marry him, as a man more easy to manage. She was successful in enlisting Lucy on her side, and until the green mummy brought its bad luck to the Pyramids everything went capitally.

It was in connection with the name of Bolton that the first mention was made of the green mummy. Sidney was a clever young man, although very lowly born, and having been taken up by Professor Braddock as an assistant, could hope some day to make a position. Braddock was educating him, although he paid him very little in the way of wages. Sidney fell in love with Mrs. Jasher, and in some way - she did not mention how - gained her confidence. Perhaps the lonely woman was glad to have a sympathetic friend. At all events she told her past history to, Sidney, and mentioned that she desired to marry Braddock. But Sidney insisted that she should marry him, and promised to make enough money to satisfy her that he was a good match, setting aside his humble birth, for which Mrs. Jasher cared nothing.

It was then that Sidney related what he had discovered. Braddock, when in Peru many years before, had tried to get mummies for some scientific reason. When Hervey - then known as Vasa - promised to procure him the mummy of the last Inca, Braddock was extremely pleased. Hervey stole the mummy and also the copy of the manuscript which was written in Latin. He sent this latter to Braddock - who was then at Cuzcoas an earnest of his success in procuring the mummy, and when the Professor returned to Lima the mummy was to be handed to him. Unfortunately, Braddock was carried into captivity for one year, and when he escaped Vasa had disappeared with the mummy. As the Professor had deciphered the Latin manuscript, he knew of the emeralds, and for years had been hunting for the mummy - sure to be recognized from its peculiar green color - in order to get the jewels, and thus secure money for his Egyptian expedition. All through, it seems, the Professor was actuated by purely scientific enthusiasm, as in the abstract he cared very little for hard cash. Bolton told Mrs. Jasher that Braddock explained how much he desired to get the mummy, but he did not mention about the jewels. For a long time Sidney was under the impression that his master merely wanted the mummy to see the difference between the Egyptian and Peruvian modes of embalming.

Then one day Sidney chanced on the Latin manuscript, and learned that Braddock's real reason for getting the mummy was to procure the emeralds which were held in the grip of the dead. Sidney kept this knowledge to himself, and Braddock never guessed that his assistant knew the truth. Then unexpectedly Braddock stumbled across the advertisement describing the green mummy for sale in Malta. From the color he made sure that it was that of Inca Caxas, and so moved heaven and earth to get money to buy it. At length he did, from Archie Hope, on condition that he consented to the marriage of his step-daughter with the young man. Thinking that Sidney was ignorant of the jewels, he sent him to bring the mummy home.

Sidney told Mrs. Jasher that he would try and steal the jewels in Malta or on board the tramp steamer. Failing that, he would delay the delivery of the mummy to Braddock on some excuse and rob it at Pierside. To make sure of escaping, he borrowed a disguise from his mother, alleging that Hope wanted the same to clothe a model. Sidney intended to take these clothes with him, and, after stealing the jewels, to escape disguised as an old woman. As he was slender and clean-shaven and a capital actor, he could easily manage this,

Then he arranged that Mrs. Jasher should join him in Paris, and they would sell the emeralds, and go to America, there to marry and live happily ever afterwards, like a fairy tale.

Unfortunately for the success of this plan, Mrs. Jasher thought that the Professor would make a more distinguished husband, so she betrayed all that Sidney, had arranged.

"What a beastly thing to do!" interrupted Random, disgusted. "It is not as if she wanted to help Braddock. I think less of Mrs. Jasher than ever I did. She might have remembered that there is honor amongst thieves."

"Well, she is dead, poor soul!" said Hope with a sigh. "God knows that if she sinned, she has paid cruelly for her sin," after which remark, as Sir Frank was silent, he resumed his reading.

Braddock was furious when he learned of his assistant's projected trickery, and he determined to circumvent him. He agreed to marry Mrs. Jasher, as, if he had not done so, she could have warned Sidney and he could have escaped with both the mummy and the jewels by conniving with Hervey. The Professor could not risk that, as, remembering Hervey as Gustav Vasa, he was aware how clever and reckless he was. Whether Braddock ever intended to marry the widow in the end it is hard to say, but he certainly pretended to consent to the engagement, which was mainly brought about by Lucy. Then came the details of the murder so far as Mrs. Jasher knew.

One evening - in fact on the evening when the crime was committed - the woman was walking in her garden late. In the moonlight she saw Braddock and Cockatoo go down along the cinderpath to the jetty near the Fort. Wondering what they were doing, she waited up, and heard and saw them - for it was still moonlight - come back long after midnight. The next day she heard of the murder, and guessed that the Professor and his slave - for Cockatoo was little else - had rowed up to Pierside in a boat and there had strangled Sidney and stolen the mummy. She saw Braddock and accused him. The Professor had then opened the case, and had pretended astonishment when discovering the corpse of the man whom Cockatoo had strangled, as he knew perfectly well.

Braddock at first denied having been to Pierside, but Mrs. Jasher insisted that she would tell the police, so he was forced to make a clean breast of it to the woman.

"Now for it," said Random, settling himself to hear details of the crime, for he had often wondered how it had been executed.

"Braddock," read Archie from the confession, for Mrs. Jasher did not trouble herself with a polite prefix - "Braddock explained that when he received a letter from Sidney stating that he would have to remain with the mummy for a night in Pierside, he guessed that his treacherous assistant intended to effect the robbery. It seems that Sidney by mistake had left behind the disguise in which he intended to escape. Aware of this through me" - Mrs. Jasher referred to herself - "he made Cockatoo assume the dress and row up the river to the Sailor's Rest. The Kanaka easily could be mistaken for a woman, as he also, like Sidney, was slender and smooth-chinned. Also, he wore the shawl over his head to disguise his mop of frizzy hair as much as possible, and for the purpose of concealing his tattooed face. In the darkness - it was after nine o'clock - he spoke to Sidney through the window, as he had seen him there earlier, when searching for him. Cockatoo said that Sidney was much afraid when he heard that his purpose had been discovered by the Professor. He offered a share of the plunder to the Kanaka, and Cockatoo agreed, saying he would come back late, and that Sidney was to admit him into the bedroom so that they could open the mummy and steal the jewels. Sidney quite believed that Cockatoo was heart and soul with him, especially as the cunning Kanaka swore that he was weary of his master's tyranny. It was when Cockatoo was talking thus that he was seen by Eliza Flight, who mistook him - very naturally - for a woman. Cockatoo then returned by boat to the Gartley jetty and told his master. Afterwards, the Professor, at a much later hour, went down to the jetty and was rowed up to Pierside by the Kanaka."

"That was when Mrs. Jasher saw them," said Random, much interested.

"Yes," said Archie. "And then, if you remember; she watched for the return of the couple."

"It was nearly midnight when the boat was brought alongside the sloping stone bank of the alley which ran past the Sailor's Rest. No one was about at that hour, not even a policeman, and there was no light in Sidney Bolton's window. Braddock was much agitated as he thought that Sidney had already escaped. He waited in the boat and sent Cockatoo to knock at the window. Then a light appeared and the window was silently opened. The Kanaka slipped in and remained there for some ten minutes after closing the window. When he returned, the light was extinguished. He whispered to his master that Sidney had opened the packing case and the mummy coffin, and had ripped the swathings to get the jewels. When Sidney would not hand over the jewels to the Kanaka, as the latter wanted him to, Cockatoo, already prepared with the window cord, which he had silently taken from the blind, sprang upon the unfortunate assistant and strangled him. Cockatoo told this to his horrified master, and wanted him to come back to hide the corpse in the packing case. Braddock refused, and then Cockatoo told him that he would throw the jewels - which he had taken from Sidney's body - into the river. The position of master and servant was reversed, and Braddock vas forced to obey.

"The Professor slipped silently ashore and into the room. The two men relighted the candle and pulled down the blind. They then placed the corpse of Sidney in the packing case, and screwed the same down in silence. When this was completed, they were about to carry the mummy in its coffin - the lid of which they had replaced - to the boat, when they heard distant footsteps, probably those of a policeman on his beat. At once they extinguished the candle, and - as Braddock told Mrs. Jasher - he, for one, sat trembling in the dark. But the policeman - if the footsteps were those of a policeman - passed up another street, and the two were safe. Without relighting the candle, they silently slipped the mummy through the window, Cockatoo within and Braddock without. The case and its contents were not heavy, and it was not difficult for the two men to take it to the boat. When it was safely bestowed, Cockatoo - who was as cunning as the devil, according to his master returned to the bedroom, and unlocked the door. He afterwards passed a string through the joining of the upper and lower windows, and managed to shut the snib. Afterwards he came to the boat and rowed it back to Gartley. On the way Cockatoo told his master that Sidney had left instructions that the packing case should be taken next morning to the Pyramids, so there was nothing to fear. The mummy was hidden in a hole under the jetty and covered with grass."

"Why didn't they take it up to the house?" asked Random, on hearing this.

"That would have been dangerous," said Hope, looking up from the manuscript, "seeing that the mummy was supposed to have been stolen by the murderer. It was easier to hide it amongst the grasses under the jetty, as no one ever goes there. Well" - he turned over a few pages - "that is practically all. The rest is after events."

"I want to hear them," said Random, taking another cup of coffee.

Hope ran his eyes swiftly over the remaining portion of the paper, and gave further details rapidly to his friend.

"You know all that happened," he said, "the Professor's pretended surprise when he found the corpse he had himself helped to pack and - "

"Yes! yes! But why was the mummy placed in Mrs. Jasher's garden?"

"That was Braddock's idea. He fancied that the mummy might be found under the jetty and that inconvenient inquiries might be made. Also, he wished if possible to implicate Mrs. Jasher, so as to keep her from telling to the police what he had told her. He and Cockatoo went down to the river one night and removed the mummy to the arbor silently. Afterwards he pretended to be astonished when I found it. I must say he acted his part very well," said Hope reflectively, "even to accusing Mrs. Jasher. That was a bold stroke of genius."

"A very dangerous one."

"Not at all. He swore to Mrs. Jasher that if she said anything, he would tell the police that she had taken the clothes provided by Sidney from the Pyramids and had gone to speak through the window, in order to fly with Sidney and the emeralds. As the fact of the mummy being found in Mrs. Jasher's garden would lend color to the lie, she was obliged to hold her tongue. And after all, as she says, she didn't mind, since she was engaged to the Professor, and possessed at least one of the emeralds."

"Ah! the one she passed along to me. How did she get that?"

Hope referred again to the manuscript.

"She insisted that Braddock should give it to her as a pledge of good faith. He had to do it, or risk her splitting. That was why he placed the mummy in her garden, so as to bring her into the matter, and render it more difficult for her to speak."

"What of the other emerald?"

"Braddock took that to Amsterdam, when he went to London that time - if you remember, when Don Pedro arrived. Braddock sold the emerald for three thousand pounds, and it is now on its way to an Indian rajah. I fear Don Pedro will never set eyes on that again."

"Where is the money?"

"He banked it in a feigned name in Amsterdam, and intended to account for it when he married Mrs. Jasher by saying it was left to her by that mythical Pekin merchant brother of hers. Savvy!"

"Yes. What an infernal little villain! And I expect he sent Cockatoo down last night for the other emerald."

"That is not related in the manuscript," said Archie, laying down the last sheet and taking up his coffee. "The confession ends abruptly - at the time Cockatoo tapped at the window, I expect. But she said, when dying, that the Kanaka asked for the second emerald. If she had not sent it to you in a fit of weakness, I expect she would have passed it along. I can't make out," added Archie musingly, "why Mrs. Jasher confessed when everything was so safe."

"Well," said Random, nursing his chin, and staring into the fire, "she made a mistake in trying to blackmail me, though why she did so I can't tell, seeing she had the whiphand of Braddock. Perhaps she wanted the five thousand to spend herself, knowing that the Professor's plunder would be wasted on his confounded expedition. At any rate she gave herself away by the blackmail, and I expect she grew frightened. If the house had been searched - and it might have been searched by the police, had I arrested her for blackmail the emerald would have been found and she would have been incriminated. She therefore got rid of it cleverly, by passing it along to me as a wedding gift. Then she again grew afraid and wrote out this confession to exonerate herself."

"But it doesn't," insisted Hope. "She makes herself out plainly as an accessory after the fact."

"A woman doesn't understand these legal niceties. She wrote that out to clear herself in case she was arrested for the blackmail, and perhaps in case Braddock refused to help her - as he certainly did, if you remember."

"He was hard on her," confessed Archie slowly.

"Being such a villain himself," said Random grimly. "However, Cockatoo arrived unluckily on the scene, and when he found she had parted with the emerald, and had written out the truth, he stabbed her. If we hadn't come just in the nick of time, he would have annexed that confession, and the truth would never have become known. No one," ended Random, rising and stretching himself, "would connect Braddock or Cockatoo with the death of Mrs. Jasher."

"Or with the death of Sidney Bolton either," said Hope, also rising and putting on his cap. "What an actor the man is!"

"Where are you going?" demanded Sir Frank, yawning.

"To the Pyramids. I want to see how Lucy is."

"Will you tell her about that confession?"

"Not until later. I shall give this to Inspector Date when he arrives. The Professor has made his bed, so he must lie on it. When I marry Lucy, I'll take her away from this damned place."

"Marry her at once, then," advised Random, "while the Professor is doing time, and while Cockatoo is being hanged. Meanwhile, I think you had better put on your overcoat, unless you want to walk through the village in crumpled evening dress, like a dissipated undergraduate."

Archie laughed in spite of his weariness, and assumed his greatcoat at the same moment as Random slipped into his. The two young men walked out into the village and up to the Pyramids, for Random wished to see Braddock before returning to the Fort. They found the door of the great house open and the servants in the hall.

"What is all this?" demanded Hope, entering. "Why are you here, and not at work? Where is your master?"

"He's run away," said the cook in a shrill voice. "Lord knows why, sir."

"Archie! Archie!" Lucy came running out of the museum, pale-faced and white, "my father has gone away with Cockatoo and the green mummy. What does it mean? And just when poor Mrs. Jasher is murdered too."

"Hush, darling! Come in, and I'll explain," said Hope gently.