Tales of Terror and Mystery HTML version
The Jew's Breastplate
My particular friend, Ward Mortimer, was one of the best men of his day at everything
connected with Oriental archaeology. He had written largely upon the subject, he had
lived two years in a tomb at Thebes, while he excavated in the Valley of the Kings, and
finally he had created a considerable sensation by his exhumation of the alleged mummy
of Cleopatra in the inner room of the Temple of Horus, at Philae. With such a record at
the age of thirty-one, it was felt that a considerable career lay before him, and no one was
surprised when he was elected to the curatorship of the Belmore Street Museum, which
carries with it the lectureship at the Oriental College, and an income which has sunk with
the fall in land, but which still remains at that ideal sum which is large enough to
encourage an investigator, but not so large as to enervate him.
There was only one reason which made Ward Mortimer's position a little difficult at the
Belmore Street Museum, and that was the extreme eminence of the man whom he had to
succeed. Professor Andreas was a profound scholar and a man of European reputation.
His lectures were frequented by students from every part of the world, and his admirable
management of the collection intrusted to his care was a commonplace in all learned
societies. There was, therefore, considerable surprise when, at the age of fifty-five, he
suddenly resigned his position and retired from those duties which had been both his
livelihood and his pleasure. He and his daughter left the comfortable suite of rooms
which had formed his official residence in connection with the museum, and my friend,
Mortimer, who was a bachelor, took up his quarters there.
On hearing of Mortimer's appointment Professor Andreas had written him a very kindly
and flattering congratulatory letter. I was actually present at their first meeting, and I
went with Mortimer round the museum when the Professor showed us the admirable
collection which he had cherished so long. The Professor's beautiful daughter and a
young man, Captain Wilson, who was, as I understood, soon to be her husband,
accompanied us in our inspection. There were fifteen rooms, but the Babylonian, the
Syrian, and the central hall, which contained the Jewish and Egyptian collection, were the
finest of all. Professor Andreas was a quiet, dry, elderly man, with a clean-shaven face
and an impassive manner, but his dark eyes sparkled and his features quickened into
enthusiastic life as he pointed out to us the rarity and the beauty of some of his
specimens. His hand lingered so fondly over them, that one could read his pride in them
and the grief in his heart now that they were passing from his care into that of another.
He had shown us in turn his mummies, his papyri, his rare scarabs, his inscriptions, his
Jewish relics, and his duplication of the famous seven-branched candlestick of the
Temple, which was brought to Rome by Titus, and which is supposed by some to be
lying at this instant in the bed of the Tiber. Then he approached a case which stood in the
very centre of the hall, and he looked down through the glass with reverence in his
attitude and manner.