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- The Green Mummy - 20/58 -


"Well?" demanded Lucy impatiently.

Mrs. Jasher shrugged her plump shoulders.

"Well, my dear, can't you put two and two together. Of course Sir Frank fell in love with this dark-hued angel."

"Dark-hued! and I am light-haired. What a compliment!"

"Perhaps Sir Frank wanted a change. He played on white and lost, and therefore stakes his money on black to win. That's the result of having been at Monte Carlo. Besides, this young lady is rich, I understand, and Sir Frank--so he told me--lost much more money at Monte Carlo than he could afford. Well, you don't look pleased."

Lucy roused herself from a fit of abstraction.

"Oh yes, I am pleased, of course. I suppose, as any woman would, I felt rather hurt for the moment in being forgotten so soon. But, after all, I can't blame Sir Frank for consoling himself. If I am married first, he shall dance at my wedding: if he is married first, I shall dance at his."

"And you shall both dance at mine," said Mrs. Jasher. "Why, there is quite an epidemic of matrimony. Well, Donna Inez arrives here with her father in a day, or so. They stop at the Warrior Inn, I believe."

"That horrid place?"

"Oh, it is clean and respectable. Besides, Sir Frank can hardly ask them to stop in the Fort, and I have no room in this bandbox of mine. However, the two of them--Donna Inez and Frank, I mean --can come here and flirt; so can you and Archie if you like."

"I fear four people in this room would not do," laughed Lucy, rising to take her leave. "Well, I hope Sir Frank will marry this lady and that you will become Mrs. Braddock. Only one thing I should like to know."

"And that is?"

"Why was the mummy stolen. It was not valuable save to a scientist."

"By that argument a scientist must be the murderer and thief," said Mrs. Jasher. "However, we shall see. Meanwhile, live every moment of love's golden hours: they never return."

"That is good advice; I shall take it and my leave," said Lucy, and departed in a very happy frame of mind.

CHAPTER X

THE DON AND HIS DAUGHTER

Professor Braddock was usually the most methodical of men, and timed his life by the clock and the almanac. He rose at seven, summer and winter, to partake of a hearty breakfast, which served him until dinner came at five thirty. Braddock dined at this unusual hour--save when there was company--as he did not eat any luncheon and scorned the very idea of afternoon tea. Two meals a day, he maintained, was enough for any man who led a sedentary life, as too much food was apt to clog the wheels of the intellect. He usually worked in his museum--if the indulgence of his hobby could be called work--from nine until four, after which hour he took a short walk in the garden or through the village. On finishing his dinner he would glance over some scientific publication, or perhaps, by way of recreation, play a game or two of patience; but at seven he invariably retired into his own rooms to renew work. Retirement to bed took place at midnight, so it can be guessed that the Professor got through an enormous quantity of work during the year. A more methodical man, or a more industrious man did not exist.

But on occasions even this enthusiast wearied of his hobby, and of the year's routine. A longing to see brother scientists of his own way of thinking would seize him, and he would abruptly depart for London, to occupy quiet lodgings, and indulge in intercourse with his fellow-men. Braddock rarely gave early intimation of his urban nostalgia. At breakfast he would suddenly announce that the fit took him to go to London, and he would drive to Jessum along with Cockatoo to catch the ten o'clock train to London. Sometimes he sent the Kanaka back; at other times he would take him to town; but whether Cockatoo remained or departed, the museum was always locked up lest it should be profaned by the servants of the house. As a matter of fact, Braddock need not have been afraid, for Lucy--knowing her step-father's whims and violent temper--took care that the sanctity of the place should remain inviolate.

Sometimes the Professor came back in a couple of days; at times his absence would extend to a week; and on two or three occasions he remained absent for a fortnight. But whenever he returned, he said very little about his doings to Lucy, perhaps deeming that dry scientific details would not appeal to a lively young lady. As soon as he was established in his museum again, life at the Pyramids would resume its usual routine, until Braddock again felt the want of a change. The wonder was, considering the nature of his work, and the closeness of his application, that he did not more often indulge in these Bohemian wanderings.

Lucy, therefore, was not astonished when, on the morning after her visit to Mrs. Jasher, the Professor announced in his usual abrupt way that he intended to go to London, but would leave Cockatoo in charge of his precious collection. She was somewhat disturbed, however, as, wishing to forward the widow's matrimonial aims, she had invited her to dinner for the ensuing night. This she told her step-father, and, rather to her surprise, he expressed himself sorry that he could not remain.

"Mrs. Jasher," said Braddock hastily, drinking his coffee, "is a very sensible woman, who knows when to be silent."

"She is also a good housekeeper, I believe," hinted Miss Kendal demurely.

"Eh, what? Well? Why do you say that?" snapped Braddock sharply.

Lucy fenced.

"Mrs. Jasher admires you, father."

Braddock grunted, but did not seem displeased, since even a scientist possessing the usual vanity of the male is not inaccessible to flattery.

"Did Mrs. Jasher tell you this?" he inquired, smiling complacently.

"Not in so many words. Still, I am a woman, and can guess how much another woman leaves unsaid." Lucy paused, then added significantly: "I do not think that she is so very old, and you must admit that she is wonderfully well preserved."

"Like a mummy," remarked the Professor absently; then pushed back his chair to add briskly: "What does all this mean, you minx? I know that the woman is all right so far as a woman can be: but her confounded age and her looks and her unexpressed admiration. What are these to an old man like myself?"

"Father," said Lucy earnestly, "when I marry Archie I shall, in all probability, leave Gartley for London."

"I know--I know. Bless me, child, do you think that I have not thought of that? If you were only wise, which you are not, you would marry Random and remain at the Fort."

"Sir Frank has other fish to fry, father. And even if I did remain at the Fort as his wife, I still could not look after you."

"Humph! I am beginning to see what you are driving at. But I can't forget your mother, my dear. She was a good wife to me."

"Still," said Lucy coaxingly, and becoming more and more the champion of Mrs. Jasher, "you cannot manage this large house by yourself. I do not like to leave you in the hands of servants when I marry. Mrs. Jasher is very domesticated and--"

"And would make a good housekeeper. No, no, I don't want to give you another mother, child."

"There is no danger of that, even if I did not marry," rejoined Lucy stiffly. "A girl can have only one mother."

"And a man apparently can have two wives," said Braddock with dry humor. "Humph!"--he pinched his plump chin--"it's not a bad idea. But of course I can't fall in love at my age."

"I don't think that Mrs. Jasher asks for impossibilities."

The Professor rose briskly.

"I'll think over it," said he. "Meanwhile, I am going to London."

"When will you be back, father?"

"I can't say. Don't ask silly questions. I dislike being bound to time. I may be a week, and I may be only a few days. Things can go on here as usual, but if Hope comes to see you, ask Mrs. Jasher in, to play chaperon."

Lucy consented to this suggestion, and Braddock went away to prepare for his departure. To get him off the premises was like launching a ship, as the entire household was at his swift heels, packing boxes, strapping rugs, cutting sandwiches, helping him on with his overcoat and assisting him into the trap, which had been hastily sent for to the Warrior Inn. All the time Braddock talked and scolded and gave directions and left instructions, until every one was quite bewildered. Lucy and the servants all sighed with relief when they saw the trap disappear round the end


The Green Mummy - 20/58

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