Chapter XXVII. By the River

As the hunt for the fugitives had continued all day, everyone, police, villagers and soldiers, were weary and disheartened. Consequently, when the three men met near the Fort, there seemed to be few people about. This was just as well, as they would have been followed to the jetty, and obviously it was best to keep the strange meeting with Captain Hervey as secret as possible. However, Don Pedro had taken Inspector Date into his confidence, as it was impossible to get past the cottage of the late Mrs. Jasher, in which the officer had taken up his quarters, without being discovered. Date was quite willing that the trio should go, but stipulated that he should come also. He had heard all about Captain Hervey in connection with the mummy, and thought that he would like to ask that sailor a few leading questions.

"And if I see fit I shall detain him until the inquest is over," said Date, which was mere bluff, as the inspector had no warrant to stop The Firefly or arrest her skipper.

The three men therefore were joined by Date, when they came along the cinder path abreast of the cottage, and the quartette proceeded further immediately, walking amongst the bents and grasses to the rude old wooden jetty, near which Hervey intended to stop his ship. The night was quite clear of fog, strange to say, considering the late sea-mist; but a strong wind had been blowing all day and the fog-wreaths were entirely dispersed. A full moon rode amongst a galaxy of stars, which twinkled like diamonds. The air was frosty, and their feet scrunched the earth and grasses and coarse herbage under foot, as they made rapidly for the embankment.

When they reached the top they could see the jetty clearly almost below their feet, and in the distance the glittering lights of Pierside. Vague forms of vessels at anchor loomed on the water, and there was a stream of light where the moon made a pathway of silver. After a casual glance the three men proceeded down the slope to the jetty. Three of them at least had revolvers, since Hervey was an ill man to tackle; but probably Date, who was too dense to consider consequences, was unarmed. Neither did Don Pedro think it necessary to tell the officer that he and his two companions were prepared to shoot if necessary. Inspector Date, being a prosy Englishman, would not have understood such lawless doings in his own sober, law-abiding country.

When they reached the jetty Don Pedro glanced at his watch, illuminating the dial by puffing his cigar to a ruddy glow. It was just after eight o'clock, and even as he looked an exclamation from Date made him raise his head. The inspector was pointing out-stream to a large vessel which had steamed inshore as far as was safe. Probably Hervey was watching for them through a night-glass, for a blue light suddenly flared on the bridge. Don Pedro, according to his promise, fired a pistol, and it was then that Date learned that his companions were armed.

"What the devil did you do that for?" he inquired angrily. "It will bring my constables down on us."

"I do not mind, since you can control them," said De Gayangos coolly. "I had to give the signal."

"And we all have revolvers," said Random quickly. "Hervey is not a very safe man to tackle, inspector."

"Do you expect a fight?" said Date, while they all watched a boat being lowered. "If so, you might have told me, and I should have brought a revolver also. Not that I think it is needed. The sight of my uniform will be enough to show this man that I have the law behind me."

"I don't think that will matter to Hervey," said Archie dryly. "So much as I have seen of him suggests to me that he is a singularly lawless man."

Date laughed good-humoredly.

"It seems to me, gentlemen, that you have brought me on a filibustering expedition," he said, and seemed to enjoy the novel situation. Date had been wrapped up in the cotton-wool of civilization for a long time, but his primitive instincts rose to the surface, now that he had to face a probable rough-and-tumble fight. "But I don't expect there will be any scrap," he said regretfully. "My uniform will settle the matter."

It certainly seemed to annoy Captain Hervey considerably, for, as the boat approached the shore, and the moonlight revealed a distinctly official overcoat, he gave an order. The man stopped rowing and the boat rocked gently, some distance from the jetty.

"You've got a high old crowd with you, Don Pedro," sang out Hervey, in great displeasure. "Is that angel in the military togs, with the brass buttons, the almighty aristocrat!"

"No. I am here," cried out Random, laughing at the description, which he recognized. "My friend Hope is with me, and Inspector Date. I suppose you have heard what has happened?"

"Yes, I've taken it all in," said Hervey sourly. "I guess the news is all over Pierside. Well, it's none of my picnic, I reckon. So chuck that gold over here, Don Pedro, and I'll send along the writing."

"No," said Don Pedro, prompted by Date. "You must come ashore."

"I guess not," said Hervey vigorously. "You want to run me in."

"For that theft of thirty years ago," laughed De Gayangos. "Nonsense! Come along. You are quite safe."

"Shan't take your damned word for it," growled Hervey. "But if those two gents can swear that there's no trickery, I'll come. I can depend on the word of an English aristocrat, anyhow."

"Come along. You are quite safe," said Sir Frank, and Hope echoed his words.

Thus being made certain, Hervey gave an order and the boat was rowed right up to the beach, immediately below the jetty. The four men were about to descend, but Hervey seemed anxious to avoid giving them trouble.

"Hold on, gents," said he, leaping ashore. "I'll come up 'longside."

Date, ever suspicious, thought it queer that the skipper should behave so politely, as he had gathered that Hervey was not usually a considerate man. Also, he saw that when the captain was climbing the bank, the boat, in charge of a mate - as the inspector judged from his brass-bound uniform - backed water to the end of the jetty, where it swung against one of the shell-encrusted piles. Hervey finally reached the jetty level, but refused to come on to the same. He beckoned to Don Pedro and his companions to walk forward to the ground upon which he was standing. Also, he seemed exceedingly anxious to take time over the transaction, as even after he had handed the scroll of writing to the Peruvian, and had received the gold in exchange, he engaged in quarrelsome conversation. Pretending that he doubted if De Gayangos had brought the exact sum, he opened the canvas bag and insisted on counting the money. Don Pedro naturally lost his temper at this insult, and swore in Spanish, upon which Hervey responded with such volubility that anyone could see he was a pastmaster in Castilian swearing. The row was considerable, especially as Random and Hope were laughing at the quarrel. They thought that Hervey was the worse for drink, but Date - clever for once in his life - did not think so. It appeared to him that the boat had gone to the end of the jetty for some reason connected with the same reason which induced the skipper to spin out the time of the meeting by indulging in an unnecessary quarrel.

The skipper also kept his eyes about him, and insisted that the four men should keep together at the head of the pier.

"I daresay you're trying to play low down on me," he said with a scowl, after satisfying himself that the money was correct, "but I've got my shooter."

"So have I," cried Don Pedro indignantly, and slipped his hand round to his hip pocket, "and if you talk any further so insulting I shall - "

"Oh, you bet, two can play at that game," cried Hervey, and ripped out his own weapon before the Spaniard could produce his Derringer. "Hands up or I shoot."

But he had reckoned without his host. While covering De Gayangos, he overlooked the fact that Random and Hope were close at hand. The next moment, and while Don Pedro flung up his hands, the ruffian wad covered by two revolvers in the hands of two very capable men.

"Great Scott!" cried Hervey, lowering his weapon. "Only my fun, gents. Here, you get back!"

This was to Inspector Date, who had been keeping his ears and eyes open, and who was now racing for the end of the jetty. Peering over, he uttered a loud cry.

"I thought so - I thought so. Here's the nigger and the mummy!"

Hervey uttered a curse, and, plunging past the trio, careless of the leveled weapons, ran down to the end of the jetty, and, throwing his arms round Date, leaped with him into the sea. They fell just beside the boat, as Random saw when he reached the spot. A confused volley of curses arose, as the boat pushed out from the encrusted pile, the mate thrusting with a boat-hook. Hervey and Date were in the water, but as the boat shot into the moonlight, Random - and now Hope and De Gayangos, who had come up - saw a long green form in amongst the sailors; also, very plainly, Cockatoo with his great mop of yellow hair.

"Shoot! shoot!" yelled Date, who was struggling with the skipper in the shallow water near shore. "Don't let them escape."

Hope ran up the jetty and fired three shots in the air, certain that the firing would attract the attention of the four or five constables on guard at the cottage, which was no very great distance away. Random sent a bullet into the midst of the boatload, and immediately the mate fired also. The bullet whistled past his head, and, crazy with rage, he felt inclined to jump in amongst the ruffians and have a hand-to-hand fight. But De Gayangos stopped him in a voice shrill with anger. Already the shouts and noise of the approaching policemen could be heard. Cockatoo gripped the green mummy case desperately, while the sailors tried to row towards the ship.

Then De Gayangos gave a shout, and leaped, as the boat swung past the jetty. He landed right on Cockatoo, and although a cloud drifted across the moon, Random heard the shots coming rapidly from his revolver. Meanwhile Hervey got away from Date, as the constables came pounding down the jetty and on to the beach.

"Chuck the mummy and nigger overboard and make for the ship," he yelled, swimming with long strokes towards the boat.

This order was quite to the sailors' minds, as they had not reckoned on such a fight. Half a dozen willing hands clutched both Cockatoo and the case, and, in spite of the Kanaka's cries, both were hurled overboard. As the case swung overside, De Gayangos, balancing himself at the end of the boat, fired at Cockatoo. The shot missed the Kanaka, and pierced the mummy case. Then from it came a piercing yell of agony and rage.

"Great God!" shouted Hope, who was watching the battle, "I believe Braddock is in that damned thing."

The next moment De Gayangos was swung overboard also, and the sailors were lifting Hervey into the boat. It nearly upset, but he managed to get in, and the craft rowed for the vessel, which was again showing a flaring blue light. Random sent a shot after the boat, and then with the policemen ran down to help De Gayangos, who was struggling in the water. He managed to pull him out, and when he had him safe and breathless on shore, he saw that the boat was nearing the ship, and that Date, torn and wet and disheveled, with three policemen, was up to his waist in water, struggling to bring ashore Cockatoo and the mummy case, to which he clung like a limpet. Hope ran down to give a hand, and in a few minutes they had the Kanaka ashore, fighting like the demon he was. Random and De Gayangos joined the breathless group, and Cockatoo was held in the grasp of two strong men - who required all their strength to hold him - while Date, warned by Hope's cry of what was in the case, tore at the lid. It was but lightly fastened and soon came off. Then those present saw in the moonlight the dead face of Professor Braddock, who had been shot through the heart. As they looked at the sight, Cockatoo broke from those who held him, and, throwing himself on his master, howled and wept as though his heart would break. At the same moment there came a derisive whistle from The Firefly, and they saw the great tramp steamer slowly moving down stream, increasing her speed with almost every revolution of the screw. Braddock had been captured, but Hervey had escaped.

At the inquest on the Professor and on the body of Mrs. Jasher, it was proved that Cockatoo had warned his master that the game was up, and had suggested that Braddock should escape by hiding in the mummy case. The corpse of Inca Caxas was placed in an empty Egyptian sarcophagus - in which it was afterwards found - and Braddock, assisted by his faithful Kanaka, wheeled the case down to the old jetty. Here, in a nook where Cockatoo had formerly kept the boat, the Professor concealed himself all that night and all next day. Cockatoo, having got rid of his boat long since (lest it might be used in evidence against him and his master), ran through the dense mist and the long night up to Pierside, where he saw Captain Hervey and bribed him with a promise of one thousand pounds to save his master. Hervey, having assured himself that the money was safe, since it was banked in a feigned name in Amsterdam, agreed, and arranged to ship the Professor in the mummy case.

Thus it was that Hervey kept the four men talking up the jetty, as he knew that Cockatoo with his own sailors was shipping the Professor in the mummy case underneath, and well out of sight. Cockatoo had come down stream with The Firefly, and in this way had not been discovered. Throughout that long day the miserable Braddock had crouched like a toad in its hole, trembling at every sound of pursuit, as he knew that the whole of the village was looking for him. But Cockatoo had hidden him well in the case, in the lid of which holes had been bored. He had brandy to drink and food to eat, and he knew that he could depend upon the Kanaka. Had Date not been suspicious, the ruse might have been successful, but to save himself Hervey had to sacrifice the wretched Professor, which he did without the slightest hesitation. Then came the unlucky shot from the revolver of De Gayangos, which had ended Braddock's wicked life. It was Fate.

At the inquest a verdict of "wilful murder" was brought against the Kanaka, but a verdict of "justifiable homicide" was given in favor of the Peruvian. Thus Cockatoo was hanged for the double murder and Don Pedro went free. He remained long enough in London to see his daughter married to the man of her choice, and then returned to Lima.

Of course the affair caused more than a nine days' wonder, and the newspapers were filled with accounts of the murder and the projected escape. But Lucy was saved from all this publicity, as, in the first place, her name was kept out of print as much as possible, and, in the second, Archie promptly married her, and within a fortnight of her step-father's death took her to the south of France, and afterwards to Italy. What with his own money and the money she inherited from her mother - in which Braddock had a life interest - the young couple had nearly a thousand a year.

Six months later Sir Frank came into the small San Remo where Mr. and Mrs. Hope lived, with his wife on his arm. Lady Random looked singularly charming and was assuredly more conversational. This was the first time the two sets of lovers had met since the tragedy, and now each girl had married the man she loved. Therefore there was great joy.

"My yacht is over at Monte Carlo," said Random, "and I am, going with Inez to South America. She wants to see her father."

"Yes, I do," said Lady Random; "and we want you to come also, Lucy - you and your dear husband."

Archie and his wife looked at one another, but declined unanimously.

"We would rather stay here in San Remo," said Mrs. Hope, becoming slightly pale. "Don't think me unkind, Inez, but I could not bear to go to Peru. It is associated too much in my own mind with that terrible green mummy."

"Oh, Don Pedro has taken that back to the Andes," explained Sir Frank, "and it is now reposing in the sepulchre in which it was placed, hundreds of years ago, by the Indians, faithful to Inca Caxas. Inez and I are going up to a kind of forbidden city, where Don Pedro reigns as Inca, and I expect we shall have a jolly time. I hear there is some big game shooting there."

"What about your soldiering?" asked Hope, rather, surprised at this extended tour being arranged.

"Oh, my husband has left the army," pouted Inez. "His duties kept him away from me nearly all the day, and I grew weary of being left alone."

"So you see, Mrs. Hope," laughed Random gayly, "that I have had to succumb to my fireside tyrant. We shall go and see this fairy city and then return to my home in Oxfordshire. There Inez will settle down as a real English wife and I'll turn a country squire. So, after all our troubles, peace will come."

"And as you, will not come to my country," said Lady Random to her hostess, "you cannot refuse to visit Frank and myself at the Grange. We have had so much trouble together that we cannot lose sight of each other."

"No," said Lucy, kissing her. "We will come to Oxfordshire."

So it was arranged, and the next day Mr. and Mrs. Hope went over to Monte Carlo to see the last of Sir Frank and his wife. They stood on the heights watching the pretty little steamer making for South America. Archie noticed that his wife's face was somewhat sad.

"Are you sorry we did not go, sweetheart?"

"No," she replied, placing her arm within his own. "I only want to be with you."

"That is all right." He patted her hand. "Now that we have sold all the furniture in the Pyramids, and have got rid of the lease, there will be nothing to remind you of the green mummy."

"Yet I can't help thinking of my unfortunate stepfather, and of poor Mrs. Jasher, and of Sidney Bolton. Oh, Archie, little as we can afford it, I am glad that we allow Mrs. Bolton a small sum a year. After all, it was through my step-father that her son met with his death."

"I don't quite agree with you, dear. Cockatoo's innate savagery was the cause, as Professor Braddock did not intend or desire murder. But there, dear, do not think any more about these dismal things. Dream of the time when I shall be the president of the Royal Academy, and you my lady."

"I am your lady now. But," added Lucy, perhaps from an association of ideas of color and the Academy, "I shall hate green for the rest of my life."

"That's unlucky, considering it is Nature's color. My dear, in a year or two this tragedy, or rather the three tragedies, will seem like a dream. I won't listen to another word now. The green mummy has passed out of our lives and has taken its bad luck with it."

"Amen, so be it," said Lucy Hope, and the happy couple went home, leaving all their sorrows behind them, while the smoke of the steamer faded on the horizon.