The Wandering Mummy
W. A. Fraser
Author of “Moostca"Thoroughbreds,” etc.
EDITOR'S NOTE—It wa» a distinct loss to Canadian literature when some gears ago II’. A. Fraser laid down his pen. Ilis animal stories and his tales of India hail won him a well-established plate in the world of letters. It is now possible to male the welcome announcement that II’. .1. Fraser is ‘ coining bad." lie has again talen up the pen avd the reading public mag lool forward to a long series of new Fraser stories. In accordance u ith its polieg of securing the best of erergthing Canaiban, MACLEAX’S has brought Mr. Fraser into its star Canadian list of contributors.
CAPT. FRANK LEIGH-MERVYN turned from Regent Street down mews in which was located Scobald’s. Curio Shop. He often picked up for a couple of shillings some trinket which he later passed on to an acquaintance at a profit.
It happened that the usual weekly auction sale was on. A pudgy man stood beside a long, narrow, green-and-red box. exhorting his limited audience to give him à starting! bid for its contents—a mummy.
“Of all the rummy goes!” Captain Frank muttered.
“Shall I Vay a sovereign?” And the apetioneer’s small gimlet eyes gazed hypnotically kt Captain Frank. The latter nodded; the fishy eyes had caught him mentally overbalanced.
In vain Soobald pleaded for a raise, drum-firing the words. “One quid—one quid—r-one quid bid.” There was no response. “It is yours, my friend,” declared Scobad as his mallet fell; “you’ve got it dirt clieap.”
Captain F rank, paralyzed by the stunning asi n in it y of his caper, solemnly paid his sovereign ánd took his way back along Regent Street • toward the Criterion, counting by the sense of touch the contents of his pocket. Two shillings and four-pence, r.nd his allowance of seven pounds weekly would be due Saturday at noon.
He entered the Criterion, and. sitting down, ordered a drink. As he did so a man slipped into the chair across the table, saying “Order one for me, Frank,
I’m like St.
Paul, having neither gold nor silver.”
.With a cynical smile Captain Frank sacrificed - his dinner for Grandon’s whisky and spda, saying,
“Glad to see you, old man. You don’t happen to need a mummv.
• do vou.”
What’s the idea?”
one this afternoon—gave my last sov. for him.”
“Gad!” Grandon’s face took on a desolate look. “And I wanted to borrow a quid Frank! I’m cleaned out What the devi! are you going to do with a mummv?” “Haven’t the faintest id«*, old chap They 9eem to be a drug on the market just nowr.”
“Send him to your brother, Doctor Tom; he used to go in for devilish queer things.”
Captain Frank started. By Jove! Many a practical joke he had played on bis brother. He laughed aloud as he drew a mental picture of old Tom’s face .when he saw w’bat had arrived as a present.
Grar.don rose, saying; “I’m off to hunt that nuid. Tom ’s out in Carada, isn’t he? Ship old paraffine ‘collect’."
* * * '
There had been five Leigh-Mervyn brothers, each one possessed of less
balance than a tumbler pigeon. Doctor Tom had as many idiosycracies as traptain Frank. Perhaps they were of heavier, more sombre texture; and, whil^ Captain Frank’s revolt against things as they were had carried him back to Piccadilly, Doctor Tom’s, more primeval, had landed him in Little Oxford, a village in Canada. Out of the discarded past the Doctor had reserved one thing, his old Indian servant, Boodha.
• So it was in Little Oxford one bright morning that Doctor Leigh-Mervyn found the following letter in his mail:
“Dear Brother Tom:
“As we grow older we acquire wisdom; and with age gradually has come to me a strong conviction that I have not fully appreciated your many arts of kindness in the past. Waywardness invariably brings an aftermath of unpleasant recollection; and in vain we beseech Repentance to obliterate the scars caused by the blows we have., caused our friends.
“At best words are but cheap and empty evidence of a contrite spirit; and I could not blame you, brother, if you were disinclined to place overmuch reliance upon assurances from me of my regard for you. But that I am sincere I trust you will helieve when you receive Uie small present I am sending. Its intrinsic value is trifling—nothing, as compared with the artistic completeness of the whole. I am sure it will prove a companion to you. I have often thought that you must find life in that new country rather dreary — rather provincial, and devoid of pleasant surroundings. When you receive my little gift do not take the trouble to thank me —I shall hardly deserve even this consideration at your hands; I shall have my reward in the knowledge of the fact that perhaps I have helped to brighten your life.
“P.S.—Please keep this work of art in a dry place; it is a genuine Rameses.”
“Great Cæsar!” exclaimed Doctor Tom. when he had finished this epistle. “The Salvation Army must have got Frank.” Then he read it again, a faint suspicion crossing hi9 mind that there was an unnatural ring to its tone.
“Frank repentant; that’s lovely. And buying presents for his friends; that’s à miracle. Well, well!” he ejaculated, with a sigh. “Human nature is very erratic—very erratic. I hope it’s all right. I shall see when the gift comes. Judging from my experience of brother Frank it might be anything down to an infernal machine.”
“Work of art, work of art,” he repeated. “A genuine Rameses. Don’t remember a painter of that name; but Frank mixed up in art is too ridiculous. It will be a bull pup, or a picture of a fighting cock.”
IN A few days advice came from the * customs at Toronto of the arrival of Captain Frank’s box. Doctor Tom had it cleared by a broker, a heavy bill of costs paid, and the box forwarded on.
“This is a present from Captain Sahib.” he told Boodha when it arrived, speaking the latter’s soft mother language, Hindustani.
Boodha’s eyes darkened suspiciously; he had known his master’s brother in India in the old days.
Then theyopened the box, and Rameses. figuratively, stared up at them with a calm expression born of a thousand years of Nirvana. The very antiquity of the visitor seemed to preclude all profanity— either that or the gruesome absurdity of the situation. At all events Doctor Tom simply gave a short, dry laugh, went to his library, and returned with Captain Frank’s letter.
“Boodha, you who are of the Orient, and you, Rameses, midway dweller betweèn the Orient and the Occident, should hear this epistle óf a Saxon. In your soul, Boodha, there is no humor-*-of that I have a thousand proofs; but I have read that Egyptians were given to levity. So. my gentle Rameses, it máy be that you will turn in your sarcophagus and smile at this subtle wit of a modern.” Then
he read the letter once, rendering passages into Hindustani. »
“See, Boodha,” he added, when he had finished, “Captain Sahib fears that 1 am lonesome here with you and the natives of Little Oxford, and has sent this other, this Egyptian to cheer us.”
“Huzoor, this is indeed like unto the Captain Sahib,” declared Boodha. “Did he not tie a live pig in the mess kitchen at I^ahore so the cooks, who were of my faith, being Mussulmans, could not prepare dinner, to the end that the Colonel Sahib, and the Officer Sahib suffered much pain («cause of their hunger?”
“Ves, it’s not unlike my playful brother,” muttered Doctor Tom. “And I’ll just keep this matter quiet till I-have a chance to get rid of our guest from the Nile.”
THE ADVENT of the coffin-shaped box was an episode in Little Oxford. Leigh-Mertyn was an irritating mystery. The things he did were irregular, such as having a heathen servant suggestive of wooden gods, idols, and other things pertaining to the Black Art. And the things the Doctor didn’t do were equally uncan onical. He didn’t sit in the village grocery and gossip; he didn’t go to church: he didn’t engage in the soul-elevating endeavor of money getting. So the villagers shot suspicion at Doctor Tom, and an occasional stone or two at Boodha, feeling that thef were magnanimous in letting it rest at that
Now while the village worried over the coffin box. Doctor Tom worried over its disposal. Rameses got on his nerves. Captain Frank had not thought of this part of the mummy’s mission, but nevertheless the Egyptian was making himself felt. It was like an^ evil spirit in the house. A corpse would have been bad enough but this, that had been dead for two thousand years, was worse; it was symbol of the decay of a vast empire.
Unfortunately Doctor Tom had just dipped enough into Egyptian lore to realize the presence of the mummy’s indiscernible ka—the Egyptian conception of the Aspect. As well might the Pharoah himself be stalking about the Doctor’s
halls. It wa$ as though a wretched nemesis had com3 up out of the dead past of
the Orient tojsit grinning at his board.
'T'HEN Doctor Tom hit upon a plan— * a brilliant plan. He was leaving that night for Ottawa on business. Why not present Ramcses to his dear friend there. Professor Ba:hmann, antiquarian and all the rest of i;; ;a lpver of dry bones and parched cutióle — the dryer and fnore parched the more precious.
Leigh-Meryn chuckled at this happy solution; it ilso gave him a chance to score over the villagers. They would be consumed With curiosity as to what was in the sorange-looking bgx. Now it would have ]>opped into the village and out again and they could go on wondering for the r ést of their natural lives.
He tacked a card on the lid and, with the servant’s assistance placed it in the hall, saying: “I’m going to Ottawa for two days, B)>dha, and will give this accursed wandered to a sahib there. I will tell the exprtssman to come for it in the morning.”
Boodha ha I a perpetual presentiment of evil hangir g over his turbaned head in Little Oxforq, largely due, no doubt, to the hardness! of the cobble stones.his anatomy had ¡intercepted on their winged flight from hçppy youth’s reckless hands. He had also tjaken very literally their expressed i^eikion of offering him up as a human sacrifice. But now, when he begged to accompany his master, the latter laughed ¿t his fears and told him to sit tight—hold the fort.
With misgivings Boodha saw his master depart:, ánd sundry manifestations through the irrst hours of the night deepened the Mussulman’s fears. Some of the young hoodlums prowling about, imbued by mischievous curiosity, were seen by him. ; Half Crated by fear he ran the gamut of his chances alone amongst these blood-thirsty sahibs, and saw little left but a choice between being murdered in the house or slaughtered if he sought to escape.
C* EAR quickened his sense of self-pre* sefvation, iand, like his master, he hit upon a brilliant idea. Of course, kneeling on his little prayer rug he had offered up a mpst fervant prayer for wisdom to Allah;! so this inspiration aras undoubtedly the ffavor of the true god. The box was to the Doctor Sahib to Ottawa in the morning, and he would occupy jt. Allah be praised; how complete a deliverance. What his master might think of the escapade, the possible inconvenience ¡of the journey, everything, was as nothing, swept away in the flood of exuberant joy the prospect of escape brought to Boodha. Quite irreverently he haled the djead king from the sarcophagus in whbji he had nested for centuries, and placed him in the Doctor’s big arm chair spying, “Sit you here, one of an unknown name.”
As Boodha Released his hold and stepped back, the hiummy slid to the floor, reclining against the chair in groggy abandon.Something of dread smote upon Boodha’s heart, a feeling that he had been guilty of disrespect to the dead; there was a suggestion about the mummy that it might rise up j at any moment and revile him—Call curses down upon his head.
“In the name of Allah!” he mutterçd. “I shall go maid gazing upon this sainted
one that no doubt was a benefactor the poor, and holy, indeed.”
"Even as he spoke Boodha was running over in his mirul the divers corners of seclusion in the house. “Allah be praised!” he exclaimed, “I have it.” Calling upon the dead Egyptian to forgive him, and explaining the delights of pri-. vacy, he carried the mummy to his master’s bedroom, stood him up in a small c lothes closet, and locked the door.
A LL NIGHT the Mussulman worked, and prayed, and talked, never sleeping. He bored small airholes in the box, arranged the lid so that he could fasten it with hooks from the inside, and dragged it out touthe verandah. In the morning he ate a hearty meal, locked the door, crept into the box, closed the lid, and waited.
Soon there was the rumble of wheels, the harsh voice of McGinnis, the drayman, and his aggressive feet beating the board walk. Even for a drayman McGinnis would have been considered profane; oaths entered into his plan of vocal decoration as red and yellow enliven the color scheme of a macaw. He kicked the dopr and commanded the pagan idolater to come out and give him a hand with the box. For reasons, not obvious to McGinnis, Boodha did not appear. In-
almost ceased to breathe, h s the irate Irishman wa9 so great.
In vain McGinnis pounded on the door ; in vain he hurled strange oaths at the invisible servant; the house remained strangely silent. Something of suspicious mystery laid its subduing touch upon the drayman. The pagan servant had been left .behind—where was he now? Perhaps he had been murdered—a curious dread, unreasoning, primitive, seized McGinnis. He shouldered the box, muttering weird conjectures and dumped it into his dray with a vicious slam that all but knocked the breath out of poor frightened Boodha.
Within an hour the Mussulman was speeding per express, toward his master ; while McGinnis was pouring his dark sur-! picions into the ears of the villagers.
A T THE first humming drone of* the iron wheels the traveller muttered rapturously: “Allah! Allah be praised!’’ After a few hours confinement he was sobbing: “Allah have mercy on me, child of affliction!” At Ottawa poor Boodha was in a state of collapse; by the time he was delivered at Professor Bachmann’s antiquarian junk-shop residence he was unconscious.
Continued on page 95.
Continued from page 13.
The Professor was jn the seventh heaven of Expectation, having received a note from Doctor Leigh-Mervyn. Passing his thin fiifgers through his thinner hair, the finger vibrating with nervous excitement, he ordered the mummy case to be brought tojhis library.
“It is a idear old-time friend, Oswald,” he confided to his servant, “who has come on a visit [from Egypt; we are going to hobnob th s evening—to-morrow we’ll find a pr iper place for his majesty. Bring a hi immer,” he added, rubbing hi9 long, lean bands together in a frenzy of anticipate« delight “Get a hammer and loosen thellid so that I may have a look at this guest from the land of the Pharoahs.’
It took i. powerful wrench of Oswald’s strong arm to tear loose the hooka
“How .od might the nigger be, sir?” Oswald aikect, catching a view of the dark face within.
“Ah—alemdash;1 can’t say just to a day,” the Profes sor answered, passing hi9 hand across his foiehead reflectively; “but it’s a matter o ’ two or three thousand years.”
' “He loo) s it—and a9 if he’s hung in a smoke houw ever since,” said Oswald.
And poo r old Boodha really did, for the long journ ey, want of nourishment, and the stupçf; ring odors that had been of the mummy hád combined to thrust him into a temporary Nirvana.
The Pro ’essor, who had left his glasses on the rea ling table, peered at the silent black-facet figure, bending down to his task in th« foolish manner of short-sighted jwople. “Lovely, lovely—a beautiful specimen!” he exclaimed rapturously.
“It give! 'mb the jumps to look at him,” Oswald dared.
“Yes, yei indeed,” Professor Bachmann muttered thoughtfully, “he’s old, old; from Dym ,stÿ XXII. Here we havé his record pail ted in green on a white ground in the inne r cíase. “Ah,” he put his hand on the seivajnt’s arm, "Oswald, if this kingly'one could ojien his lips and sjieak to us, stra ige secrets, no doubt, he could tell.” ’
-“He’d yt 11 for something to eat, I guess, sir/*
“Well, leave him no*; Hl-ah! Did you—that is-r strange, I—I could have
sworn I h« ar;LYou didn't sjieak, did
you, Oswald-fjit sounded like-a gasp.”
The ser raijti looked at his master curiously. incui&ively; then he said: “I guess I cot ghpd, I’ve got a little cold. But don’t you ' hirik you’d better not work any more to-night? You’re not looking any too well, ! ir/*
The Prt feasor drew himself up stiffly. “Thank y >u, Oswald, I am feeling quite well—quit Î well, indeed. That will be all—you ipay go.”
’PHE SERVANT bowed with almost equal dignity, and the two men turned their backs on each other, Oswald striding toward the door, and the Professor toward his writing table. Half way the Professor turned quickly, angrily.' Was the servant laughing at him? It sounded suspiciously like it.
He stood thus till Oswald had passed through the door; then with a sigh he seated himself and resumed his writing. Suddenly he raised his head and listened intently. , Then he tiptoed very softly across the room to the door, opened it sharply and looked out. The hall was empty. He closed the door and returned to his seat, muttering, “Strange; I could have sworn I heard a sigh, or a laugh, or a moan.”
Then the Professor's mind reverted to the article in a philosophical journal which he had been reading. It was on a most congenial theme, the possibility of holding converse with deceased persons. Bachmann was a firm believer in such manifestations of unconcrete things. Once, through a medium, he had conversed with a very ancient and respected Pharoah named Soti. Probably the Professor’s mind, through groping so much amongst matters of antiquity, was more in adjustment to minds which had been on earth centuries ago. And also the Egyptians seemed to have more completely mastered the vagaries of the soul of life essence by sejmrating it, concreting it into what they called the Ká; therefore, to the Professor it seemed extremely reasonable that these Kas, or Aspects, being, so to speak, better trained than the modern elusive spirit, would be more likely to come back to earth and hover about one interested in them. -
“Dear me, dear me!” the Professor ejaculated. “The presence of that mummy has filled my mind with the memory of that delightful converse I had with Soti. Delightful! I’m afraid I cannot concentrate my mind on this interesting—ah! Bless ihy soul ! What was that?”
His glasses had dropjied to the table with the sudden uplift, of his head. A distinct gasping sijgh had smitten uj»n the old gentleman’s ears; there was no doubt whatever about it The gentle delver in antiquarian fields, with * a troubled look on his fine, classic f)ce, rose, and softly tiptoed across JL mellow Turkish rug. and jieered into the casket There was nothing visible, that is nothing animate. The silent dark-faced figure seemed to rebuke the Professor’s trepidation with its solemn calm. “I fancy I’m notional to-night—my nerves are tricky,“ he muttered, gazing in rapt admiration at the mummy. “How perfect their aft was/’ he added, pinching the dark cheek with a
* forefinger. “Our friend was a dweller in ! Thebes, where they had this perfect method of rendering their mummies soft.
¡ and yellow, and pliable; vastly superior, j to the black, brittle mummies of Memphis.
! Centuries have not destroyed that flesh -like consistency. What I can’t under,
! stand though, what vandals have stripped off the bandages, taken the face mask?” Suddenly the Professor started — he could have sworn that one of the eyes opened dreamily and peered up at him. almost winked. “Ha, ha!” he laughed nervously. “Strange tricks our vivid imaginations play us! Centuries since that eye closed never to open again.”
Professor Bachmann once more returned to his writing table, trying to drive from his mind the weird idea that the shrivelled Egyptian had looked at him out of his soulless eyes and winked.
“I wonder if there really is anything the matter with me,’ he questioned. “What did Oswald mean by not working to-night; he must have noticed something unusual. Perhaps I’m taking too much coffee, or too much—eh! Again! God bless us!” A soft rustling noise of slipping drapery claimed his startled attention; he stared stupidly at the mummy case^AÎndoubtedly there was a stirring as of life in that casket of the dead.
'T'HE PROFESSOR essayed to rise -L from his chart, but his limbs doubled under him like soft cloth; he sought to question the maker of the disturbing noise but his tongue had lost its trick of speech. He had conversed with spirits at a seance but they had been expected, appealed to. This was altogether different No longer was there any doubt about the actuality of these life sounds. Sighs and deep gasps for bceath came from the mummy’s resting place and next in the Prófessor’s vision, there loomed an arm thrust upward. His mind flashed a thousand lights upon his own condition; it worked with fierce rapidity. He was not mad, he could feel that; he was not asleep and in a nightmare; he stretched forth his hand I and turned two separate sheets of the “treatise bn psychology; Hie response of the paper to his touch proved that he was awake and in full control of his faculties.
All doubt of this fact was immediately dissipated by a sharp rap on the door.
I The Professor pulled the cover over the box and opened the door.
r\R. LEIGH-MARVYN stepped into ^ the room, saying, blithely: “Oswald said you were here so I took the liberty of coming right up. Just dropped in to see if my tarry friend from the Nile had called yet.” As Leigh-Marvyn turned he saw the mummy case; he gave it a playful kick. “Let’s wake him up, Professor, and find out why the Sphinx.”
Bachmann slipped his hand through Leigh-Mervyn’9 arm, and led him to a chair at the desk.
The Doctor looked professionally at Bachmann. “You’re looking tucked up. Professor. The dust off these antiques gets into your lungs. Our kippered friend.
Bach matin put a hand on the Doctor’s arm; there'was intensity in his voice as he asked: “Do you believe in the reincarnation of the dead?”
“Leigh-Mervyn checked the word “Td»nmy rot.!” that rose to his lips and hedged: “I don’t place much faith in its possibility.”
if I were to tell ÿou, Doctor, that the Ka had returned to that Egyptian who habeen dead f^r centuries, what would
Leigh-Mervyn whirled in his clair and fastened his eyes on the mummy c »se from which, undoubtedly. a groan hai come. His eyes flashed hack to Bachmai n’s face; a look of placid triumph was there registered. The Professor nodded. ‘ -
ONCE again there was a beat of knuckles 01 the library door which was at once opc ned by Oswald, at whose heels were two strangers. “Two gentlemen to see you, : ir,” Oswald said; adding, apologetically: "They insisted on coming in. sir. saying tl eir business was urgent. ’ One of the s rangers, speaking to his companion, sait : “That’s Doctor LeighMervyn.”
_ The Doctor si lot a surprised look of reignition at the speaker then greeted him with. “Hello, Constable McBride—what are you doing so far away from Little Oxford?” j
“We’ve a warrant (or your arrest. Doctor.”
Leigh-Mervyn stared. “For what, pray?” he askejd.
"For the murder of your servant. We found the pagajn’s body in thrhouse just
where you left it” ......
“What! My servant murdered and the
body where I ft it!
“Yes; packed away like a pair of old iioots in a clot! es closet. When I opened the door it fell out on me—gave me a nasty start, 11 *11 you.”
“But why sh uld Í kill my own servant.
It’s madness!” \
“Well, there was an inquest an the jury wasn’t mad. .»Nobody but yourself could ’ve embal med the body the way that poor heathen vas done up. We’ve been suspicious of you,; an’ heann nobody about the pia« we broke in—if we hadn t done that thalt body would ’ve stayed there for a th; usand years without makin’ a smell. Nobody would ’ve ever
known.” , r.
“What are y m talking about? the Doc| tor was plainly mystified. “I embalmed the body?”
McBride pointed at the mummy case. “Yes. and there’s the devilish box that you did the black art in. What was it brought to vour hoqse and away the next day for? The murder was done while it was there!” j
McBride stepped: toward the mummy ca-v; the Doctor did also; involuntarily the Professor followed. t
“It’s circun stanjtial evidence, that s what it is,” McBride said in an olncial manner. He tlirew|the lid off. For an infant they all craned their necks. Then McBride cried out Id fear, “Oh. my God. and sprang back, as Boodha, rising to a sitting posture, anil putting his hand to his forehead si id to the Doctor: “Salaam, Sahib, 1 was afriüd and came by this manner of met ns to your protection. With great care I jut â»e one who is dead in your closet.”
Leigh-Mervyn turned to Constable McBride and sai 1, “My dear Constable, go back to Little Oxford and tell its çharming citizens 1hat they’ve held a postmortemon a mummy that’s been dead two'thousand years. He may have been murdered, bu l am not the murderer.”