Chapter XXVI. The Appointment

Poor Lucy Kendal was terribly grieved and shocked when the full account of her step-father's iniquity was revealed to her. Archie tried to break the news as delicately as possible, but no words could soften the sordid story. Lucy, at first, could not believe it possible that a man, whom she had known for so long, and to whom she was related, would behave in such a base way. To convince her Hope was forced to let her read the account in Mrs. Jasher's handwriting. When acquainted with the contents, the poor girl's first desire was to have the matter hushed up, and she implored her lover with tears to suppress the damning document.

"That is impossible," said Hope firmly; "and if you think again, my dear, you will not repeat such a request. It is absolutely necessary that this should be placed in the hands of the police, and that the truth should become as widely known as possible. Unless the matter is settled once and for all, someone else may be accused of this murder."

"But the disgrace," wept Lucy, hiding her face on her lover's shoulder.

He slipped his arm round her waist.

"My darling, the disgrace exists whether it be public or private. After all, the Professor is no relation."

"No. But everyone knows that I am his stepdaughter."

"Everyone," echoed Archie, with an assumed lightness. "My dear, everyone in this instance only means the handful of people who live in this out-of-the-way, village. Your name will not appear in the papers. And even if by chance it does, you will soon be changing it for mine. I think the best thing that can be done is for you to come with me to London next week and marry me. Then we can go to the south of France for the rest of the winter, until you recover. When we return and set up house in London - say in a year - the whole affair will be forgotten."

"But how can you bear to marry me, when you know that I come of such a bad stock?" wept Lucy, a trifle more comforted.

"My dear, must I remind you again that you are no relation to Professor Braddock; you have not a drop of his wicked blood in your veins. And even if you had, I should still marry you. It is you I love, and you I marry, so there is no more to be said. Come, darling, say that you will become my wife next week."

"But the Professor?"

Archie smiled grimly. He found it difficult to forgive Braddock for the disgrace he had brought on the girl.

"I don't think we'll ever be troubled again with the Professor," he said, after a pause. "He has bolted into the unknown with that infernal Kanaka."

"But why did he fly, Archie?"

"Because he knew that the game was up. Mrs. Jasher wrote out this confession, and told Cockatoo, when he entered the room to get the emerald, that she had written it. To save his master the Kanaka stabbed the wretched woman, and, had Random and I not arrived, he would have secured the confession. I really believe he came back again out of the mist in the small hours of the morning to steal it. But when he found that all was vain, he returned here and told the Professor that the story of the murder had been written out. Therefore there was nothing left to Braddock but to fly. Although," added Hope, with an after-thought, "I can't imagine why those two fugitives should drag that confounded mummy with them."

"But why should the Professor fly?" asked Lucy again. "According to what Mrs. Jasher writes, he did not strangle poor Sidney."

"No. And I will do him the justice to say that he had no idea of having his assistant murdered. It was Cockatoo's savage blood which came out in the deed, and maybe it can be explained by the Kanaka's devotion to the Professor. It was the same way in the murder of Mrs. Jasher. By killing Bolton, the Kanaka hoped to save the emeralds for Braddock: in stabbing Mrs. Jasher, he hoped to save the Professor's life."

"Oh, Archie, will they hang my father?"

Hope winced.

"Call him your step-father," he said quickly. "No, dear, I do not think he will be hanged; but as an accessory after the fact he will certainly be condemned to a long term of imprisonment. Cockatoo, however, assuredly will be hanged, and a good job too. He is only a savage, and as such is dangerous in a civilized community. I wonder where they have gone? Did anyone hear them going?"

"No," said Lucy unhesitatingly. "Cook came up this morning to my room, and said that my father - I mean my step-father - had gone away with Cockatoo and with the green mummy. I don't know why she should have said that, as the Professor often went away unexpectedly."

"Perhaps she heard rumors in the village and put two and two together. I cannot tell. Some instinct must have told her. But I daresay Braddock and his accomplice fled under cover of the mist and in the small hours of the morning. They must have known that the confession would bring the officers of the law to this house."

"I hope they will escape," murmured Lucy.

"Well, I am not sure," said Hope hesitatingly. "Of course, I should like to avoid a scandal for your sake, and yet it is only right that the two of them should be punished. Remember, Lucy dear, how Braddock has acted all along in deceiving us. He knew all, and yet not one of us suspected him."

"While Archie was thus comforting the poor girl, Gartley village was in an uproar. Everyone was talking about this new crime, and everyone was wondering who had stabbed the unlucky woman. As yet the confession of Mrs. Jasher had not been placed in the hands of the police and everyone was ignorant that Cockatoo was the criminal who had escaped in the fog. Inspector Date speedily arrived with his myrmidons on the scene and made the cottage his headquarters. Later in the day, Hope, having taken a cold bath to freshen himself up, came with the confession. This he gave to the officer and explained the whole story of the previous night.

Date was more than astonished: he was astounded. He read the confession and made notes; then he sent for Sir Frank Random, and examined him in the same strict way as he had examined the artist. Jane was also questioned. Widow Anne was put in the witness box, so as to report about the clothes, and in every way Date gathered material for another inquest. At the former one he had only been able to place scanty evidence before the jury, and the verdict had been unsatisfactory to the public. But on this occasion, seeing that the witnesses he could bring forward would solve the mystery of the first death as well as the second, Inspector Date exulted greatly. He saw himself promoted and his salary raised, and his name praised in the papers as a zealous and clever officer. By the time the inquest came to be held, the inspector had talked himself into believing that the whole mystery had been solved by himself. But before that time came another event happened which astonished everyone, and which made the final phase of the green mummy crime even more sensational than it had been. And Heaven knows that from beginning to end there had been no lack of melodrama of the most lurid description.

Don Pedro de Gayangos was exceedingly amazed at the unexpected turn which the case had taken. That he should have been trying to solve a deep mystery for so long, and that the solution, all the time, had been in the hands of the Professor, startled him exceedingly. He admitted that he had never liked Braddock, but explained that he had not expected to hear that the fiery little scientist was such a scoundrel. But, as Don Pedro confessed, it was an ill wind which blew him some good, when the upshot of the whole mysterious tragic business was the restoration of at least one emerald. Sir Frank brought the gem to him on the afternoon of the day succeeding Mrs. Jasher's death, and while the whole village was buzzing with excitement. It was Random who gave all details to Donna Inez and her father, leading from one revelation to another, until he capped the whole extraordinary story by producing the splendid gem.

"Mine! mine!" said Don Pedro, his dark eyes glittering. "Thanks be to the Virgin and the Saints," and he bowed his head to make the sign of the cross devoutly on his breast.

Donna Inez clapped her hands and her eyes flashed, for, like every woman, she had a profound love for jewels.

"Oh, how lovely, Frank! It must be worth no end of money."

"Professor Braddock sold the other to some Indian rajah in Amsterdam - through an agent, I presume for three thousand pounds."

"I shall get more than that," said Don Pedro quickly. "The Professor sold his jewel in a hurry and had no time to bargain. But sooner or later I shall get five thousand pounds for this." He held the gem in the sunlight, where it glowed like an emerald sun. "Why, it is worthy of a king's crown."

"I fear you will never get the other gem," said Random regretfully. "I believe that it is on its way to India, if Mrs. Jasher can be trusted."

"Never mind. I shall be content with this one, senor. I have simple tastes, and this will do much to restore the fortunes of my family. When I go back with this and the green mummy, all those Indians who know of my descent from the ancient Incas will be &lighted and will pay me fresh reverence."

"But you forget," said Random, frowning, "the green mummy has been taken away by Professor Braddock."

"They cannot have gone far with it," said Donna Inez, shrugging.

"I don't know so much about that, dearest," said Sir Frank. "Apparently, since they handled it at the time of the murder, it is easier carried about than one would think. And then they fled last night, or rather in the small hours of this morning, under cover of a dense fog."

"It is clear enough now," said De Gayangos, peering through the window, where a pale winter sun shone in a clear steel-hued sky. "They are bound to be caught in the long run."

"Do you wish them to be caught?" asked Random abruptly.

"Not the Professor. For Miss Lucy's sake I hope he will escape; but I trust that the savage who killed these two unfortunate people will be brought to the gallows."

"So do I," said Random. "Well, Don Pedro, it seems to me that your task in Gartley is ended. All you have to do is to wait for the inquest and see Mrs. Jasher buried, poor soul! Then you can go to London and remain there until after Christmas."

"But why should I remain in London?" asked the Peruvian, surprised.

Random glanced at Donna Inez, who blushed.

"You forget that you have given your consent to my marriage with - "

"Ah, yes," Don Pedro smiled gravely. "I return with the jewel to Lima, but I leave my other jewel behind."

"Never mind," said the girl, kissing her father; "when Frank and I are married we will come to Callao in his yacht."

"Our yacht," said Random, smiling.

"Our yacht," repeated Donna Inez. "And then you will see, father, that I have become a real English lady."

"But don't entirely forget that you are a Peruvian," said Don Pedro playfully.

"And a descendant of Inca Caxas," added Donna Inez. Then she flirted her fan, which she was rarely without, and laughed in her English lover's face. "Don't forget, senor, that you marry a princess."

"I marry the most charming girl in the world," he replied, catching her in his arms, rather to the scandal of De Gayangos, who had stiff Spanish notions regarding the etiquette of engaged couples.

"There is one thing you must do for me, senor," he said quietly, "before we leave this most unhappy case of murder and theft for ever."

"What is that?" asked Sir Frank, turning with Inez in his arms.

"To-night at eight o'clock, Captain Hervey - the sailor Gustav Vasa, if you prefer the name - steams down the river in his new boat The Firefly. I received a note from him" - he displayed a letter - "stating that he will pass the jetty of Gartley at that hour, and will burn a blue light. If I fire a pistol, he will send off a boat with a full account of the theft of the mummy of Inca Caxas, written by himself. Then I will hand his messenger fifty gold sovereigns, which I have here," added Don Pedro, pointing to a canvas bag on the table, "and we will return. I wish you to go with me, senor, and also I wish your friend Mr. Hope to come."

"Do you anticipate treachery from Captain Hervey?" asked Random.

"I should not be surprised if he tried to trick me in some way, and I wish you and your friend to stand by me. Were this man alone, I would go alone, but he will have a boat's crew with him. It is best to be safe."

"I agree with you," said Random quickly. "Hope and I will come, and we will take revolvers with us. It doesn't do to trust this blackguard. Ho! ho! I wonder if he knows of the Professor's flight."

"No. Considering the terms upon which the Professor stood with Hervey, I should think he would be the last person he would trust. I wonder what has become of the man."

More people than Don Pedro wondered as to the whereabouts of Braddock and his servant, for everyone was inquiring and hunting. The marshes round the cottage were explored: the great house itself was searched, as well as many cottages in the village, and inquiries were made at all the local stations. But all in vain. Braddock and Cockatoo, along with the cumbersome mummy in its case, had vanished as completely as though the earth had swallowed them up. Inspector Date's idea was that the pair had taken the mummy to Gartley Pier, after the search made by the soldiers, and there had launched the boat, which Cockatoo - judging from his visit to Pierside - apparently kept hidden in some nook. It was probable, said Date, the two had rowed down the river, and had managed to get on board some outward-bound tramp. They could easily furbish up some story, and as Braddock doubtless had money, could easily buy a passage for a large sum. The tramp being outward-bound, her captain and crew would know nothing of the crime, and even if the fugitives were suspected, they would be shipped out of England if the bribe was sufficiently large. So it was apparent that Inspector Date had not much opinion of tramp-steamer skippers.

However, as the day wore on to night, nothing was heard of Braddock or Cockatoo or the mummy, and when night came the village was filled with local reporters and with London journalists asking questions. The Warrior Inn did a great trade in drink and beds and meals, and the rustics reaped quite a harvest in answering questions about Mrs. Jasher and the Professor and the weird-looking Kanaka. Some reporters dared to invade the Pyramids, where Lucy was weeping in sorrow and shame, but Archie, reinforced by two policemen, sent to his aid by Date, soon sent them to the right about. Hope would have liked to remain with Lucy all the evening, but at half-past seven he was forced to meet Don Pedro and Random outside the Fort in order to go to Gartley Jetty.