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- The Green Mummy - 30/58 -


you hint I should not think that you had much money to spend on litigation."

Don Pedro bit his lip, and saw that it was indeed a more difficult task than he had anticipated to make Braddock yield up his prize.

"If you were in Lima," he muttered, speaking Spanish in his excitement, "you would then learn that I speak truly."

"I do not doubt your truth," answered the Professor in the same language.

De Gayangos wheeled and faced his host, much surprised.

"You speak my tongue, senor?" he demanded.

Braddock nodded.

"I have been in Spain, and I have been in Peru," he answered dryly, "therefore I know classical Spanish and its colonial dialects. As to being in Lima, I was there, and I do not wish to go there again, as I had quite enough of those uncivilized parts thirty years ago, when the country was much disturbed after your civil war."

"You were in Lima thirty years ago," echoed Don Pedro; "then you were there when Vasa stole this mummy."

"I don't know who stole it, or even if it was stolen," said the Professor obstinately, "and I don't know the name of Vasa. Ah! now I remember. Young Hope did say something about the Swedish sailor who you said stole the mummy."

"Vasa did, and brought it to Europe to sell--probably to that man in Paris, who afterwards sold it to your Malteses collector."

"No doubt," rejoined Braddock calmly; "but what has all this to do with me, Don Pedro?"

"I want my mummy," raged the other, and looked dangerous.

"Then you won't get it," retorted Braddock, adopting a pugnacious attitude and quite composed. "This mummy has caused one death, Don Pedro, and from your looks I should think you would like it to cause another."

"Will you not be honest?"

"I'll knock your head off if you bring my honesty into question," cried the Professor, standing on tip-toe like a bantam. "The best thing to do will be to take the matter into court. Then the law can decide, and I have little doubt but what it will decide in my favor."

The Englishman and the Peruvian glared at one another, and Cockatoo, who was crouching on the floor, glanced from one angry face to another. He guessed that the white men were quarreling and perhaps would come to blows. It was at this moment that a knock came to the door, and a minute later Archie entered. Braddock glanced at him, and took a sudden resolution as he stepped forward.

"Hope, you are just in time," he declared. "Don Pedro states that the mummy belongs to him, and I assert that I have bought it. We shall make you umpire. He wants it: I want it. What is to be done?"

"The mummy is my own flesh and blood, Mr. Hope," said Don Pedro.

"Precious little of either about it," said Braddock contemptuously.

Archie twisted a chair round and straddled his long legs across it, with his arms resting on its back. His quick brain had rapidly comprehended the situation, and, being acquainted with both sides of the question, it was not difficult to come to a decision. If it was hard that Don Pedro should lose his ancestor's mummy, it was equally hard that Braddock--or rather himself--should lose the purchase money, seeing that it had been paid in good faith to the seller in Malta for a presumably righteously acquired object. On these premises the young Solon proceeded to deliver judgment.

"I understand," said he judiciously, "that Don Pedro had the mummy stolen from him thirty years ago, and that you, Professor, bought it under the impression that the Maltese owner had a right to possess it."

"Yes," snapped Braddock, "and I daresay the Maltese owner thought so too, since he bought it from that collector in Paris."

Hope nodded.

"And if Vasa sold it to the man in Paris," said he calmly, "he certainly would not tell the purchaser that he had looted the mummy in Lima, and the poor man would not know that he was receiving stolen goods. Is that right, Don Pedro?"

"Yes, sir," said the Peruvian, who had recovered his temper and his gravity; "but I declare solemnly that the mummy was stolen from my father and should belong to me."

"No one disputes that," said Archie cheerfully; "but it ought to belong to the Professor also, since he has bought it. Now, as it can't possibly belong to two people, we must split the difference. You, Professor, must sell back the mummy to Don Pedro for the price you paid for it, and then, Don Pedro, you must recompense Professor Braddock for his loss."

"I have not much money," said Don Pedro gravely; "still, I am willing to do as you say."

"I don't know that I am," protested Braddock noisily. "There are the two emeralds which are of immense value, as Don Pedro says, and they belong to me, since the mummy is my property."

"Professor," said Archie solemnly, "you must do right, even if you lose by it. I believe the story of Senor De Gayangos; and the mummy with its jewels belongs to him. Besides, you only wish to see the way in which the Inca race embalmed their dead. Well, then, unpack the mummy here in the presence of Don Pedro. When you have satisfied your curiosity, and when Senor De Gayangos signs a check for one thousand pounds, he can take away the corpse. You have had so much trouble over it, that I wonder your are not anxious to see the last of it."

"But the emeralds would sell for much money and would defray the expenses of my expedition into Egypt to search for that Queen's tomb."

"I understood from Lucy that Mrs. Jasher intended to finance that expedition when she became your wife."

"Humph!" muttered Braddock, stroking his fat chin. "I said a few foolish things to her last night when I was heated up. She may not forgive me, Hope."

"A woman will forgive anything to the man she loves," said Archie.

Braddock was no fool, and could not help casting a glance at his tubby figure, which was reflected in a near mirror. It seemed incredible that Mrs. Jasher could love him for his looks, and the fact that he might some day be a baronet did not strike him at the moment as a consideration. However, he foresaw trouble and expense should Don Pedro go to law, as he seemed determined to do. Taking all things into consideration, Braddock thought that Archie's judgment was a good one, and yielded.

"Well," he said after reflection, "let us agree. I shall open the case and examine the mummy, which after all is the reason why I bought it. When I have satisfied myself as to the difference between the modes of embalming, Don Pedro can give me a check and take away the mummy. I only hope that he will have less trouble with it than I have had," and, so speaking, Braddock, signing to Cockatoo to bring all the necessary tools, laid hands on the case.

"I am content," said Don Pedro briefly, and seated himself in a chair beside the young Daniel who had delivered judgment.

Hope offered to assist the Professor to open the case, but was dismissed with an abrupt refusal.

"Though I am glad you are present to see the mummy unpacked," said Braddock, laboring at the lid of the case, "for if the emeralds are missing, Don Pedro might accuse me of stealing them."

"Why should the emeralds be missing?" asked Hope quickly.

Braddock shrugged his shoulders.

"Sidney Bolton was killed," said he in a low voice, "and it was not likely that any one would commit a murder for the sake of this mummy, and then leave it stranded in Mrs. Jasher's garden. I have my doubts about the safety of the emeralds, else I would not have consented to sell the thing back again."

With this honest speech, the Professor vigorously attacked the lid of the case, and inserted a steel instrument into the cracks to prize up the covering. The lid was closed with wooden pegs in an antique but perfectly safe manner, and apparently had not been opened since the dead Inca had been laid to rest therein hundreds of years ago among the Andean mountains. Don Pedro winced at this desecration of the dead, but, as he had given his consent, there was nothing left to do but to grin and bear it. In a wonderfully short space of time, considering the neatness of the workmanship and the holding power of the wooden pegs, the lid was removed. Then the four on-lookers saw that the mummy had been tampered with. Swathed in green-stained llama wool, it lay rigid in its case. But the swathings had been cut; the hands protruded and the emeralds were gone--torn rudely from the hard grip of the dead.

CHAPTER XV


The Green Mummy - 30/58

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