His answer was in an indignant tone: "Sure! Of course I'm sure.There isn't another set of lamps like these in the world!"
"So far as you know!" The Detective's words were smooth enough, buthis manner was so exasperating that I was sure he had some motive init; so I waited in silence. He went on:
"Of course there may be some in the British Museum; or Mr. Trelawny mayhave had these already. There's nothing new under the sun, you know,Mr. Corbeck; not even in Egypt. These may be the originals, and yoursmay have been the copies. Are there any points by which you canidentify these as yours?"
Mr. Corbeck was really angry by this time. He forgot his reserve; andin his indignation poured forth a torrent of almost incoherent, butenlightening, broken sentences:
"Identify! Copies of them! British Museum! Rot! Perhaps they keep aset in Scotland Yard for teaching idiot policemen Egyptology! Do Iknow them? When I have carried them about my body, in the desert, forthree months; and lay awake night after night to watch them! When Ihave looked them over with a magnifying-glass, hour after hour, till myeyes ached; till every tiny blotch, and chip, and dinge became asfamiliar to me as his chart to a captain; as familiar as they doubtlesshave been all the time to every thick-headed area-prowler within thebounds of mortality. See here, young man, look at these!" He rangedthe lamps in a row on the top of the cabinet. "Did you ever see a setof lamps of these shapes--of any one of these shapes? Look at thesedominant figures on them! Did you ever see so complete a set--even inScotland Yard; even in Bow Street? Look! one on each, the seven formsof Hathor. Look at that figure of the Ka of a Princess of the TwoEgypts, standing between Ra and Osiris in the Boat of the Dead, withthe Eye of Sleep, supported on legs, bending before her; and Harmochisrising in the north. Will you find that in the British Museum--or BowStreet? Or perhaps your studies in the Gizeh Museum, or theFitzwilliam, or Paris, or Leyden, or Berlin, have shown you that theepisode is common in hieroglyphics; and that this is only a copy.Perhaps you can tell me what that figure of Ptah-Seker-Ausar holdingthe Tet wrapped in the Sceptre of Papyrus means? Did you ever see itbefore; even in the British Museum, or Gizeh, or Scotland Yard?"
He broke off suddenly; and then went on in quite a different way:
"Look here! it seems to me that the thick-headed idiot is myself! Ibeg your pardon, old fellow, for my rudeness. I quite lost my temperat the suggestion that I do not know these lamps. You don't mind, doyou?" The Detective answered heartily:
"Lord, sir, not I. I like to see folks angry when I am dealing withthem, whether they are on my side or the other. It is when people areangry that you learn the truth from them. I keep cool; that is mytrade! Do you know, you have told me more about those lamps in thepast two minutes than when you filled me up with details of how toidentify them."
Mr. Corbeck grunted; he was not pleased at having given himself away.All at once he turned to me and said in his natural way:
"Now tell me how you got them back?" I was so surprised that I saidwithout thinking:
"We didn't get them back!" The traveller laughed openly.
"What on earth do you mean?" he asked. "You didn't get them back!Why, there they are before your eyes! We found you looking at themwhen we came in." By this time I had recovered my surprise and had mywits about me.
"Why, that's just it," I said. "We had only come across them, byaccident, that very moment!"
Mr. Corbeck drew back and looked hard at Miss Trelawny and myself;turning his eyes from one to the other as he asked:
"Do you mean to tell me that no one brought them here; that you foundthem in that drawer? That, so to speak, no one at all brought themback?"
"I suppose someone must have brought them here; they couldn't have comeof their own accord. But who it was, or when, or how, neither of usknows. We shall have to make inquiry, and see if any of the servantsknow anything of it."
We all stood silent for several seconds. It seemed a long time. Thefirst to speak was the Detective, who said in an unconscious way:
"Well, I'm damned! I beg your pardon, miss!" Then his mouth shut likea steel trap.
We called up the servants, one by one, and asked them if they knewanything of some articles placed in a drawer in the boudoir; but noneof them could throw any light on the circumstance. We did not tellthem what the articles were; or let them see them.
Mr. Corbeck packed the lamps in cotton wool, and placed them in a tinbox. This, I may mention incidentally, was then brought up to thedetectives' room, where one of the men stood guard over them with arevolver the whole night. Next day we got a small safe into the house,and placed them in it. There were two different keys. One of them Ikept myself; the other I placed in my drawer in the Safe Deposit vault.We were all determined that the lamps should not be lost again.
About an hour after we had found the lamps, Doctor Winchester arrived.He had a large parcel with him, which, when unwrapped, proved to be themummy of a cat. With Miss Trelawny's permission he placed this in theboudoir; and Silvio was brought close to it. To the surprise of usall, however, except perhaps Doctor Winchester, he did not manifest theleast annoyance; he took no notice of it whatever. He stood on thetable close beside it, purring loudly. Then, following out his plan,the Doctor brought him into Mr. Trelawny's room, we all following.Doctor Winchester was excited; Miss Trelawny anxious. I was more thaninterested myself, for I began to have a glimmering of the Doctor'sidea. The Detective was calmly and coldly superior; but Mr. Corbeck,who was an enthusiast, was full of eager curiosity.
The moment Doctor Winchester got into the room, Silvio began to mew andwriggle; and jumping out of his arms, ran over to the cat mummy andbegan to scratch angrily at it. Miss Trelawny had some difficulty intaking him away; but so soon as he was out of the room he became quiet.When she came back there was a clamour of comments:
"I thought so!" from the Doctor.
"What can it mean?" from Miss Trelawny.
"That's a very strange thing!" from Mr. Corbeck.
"Odd! but it doesn't prove anything!" from the Detective.
"I suspend my judgment!" from myself, thinking it advisable to saysomething.
Then by common consent we dropped the theme--for the present.
In my room that evening I was making some notes of what had happened,when there came a low tap on the door. In obedience to my summonsSergeant Daw came in, carefully closing the door behind him.
"Well, Sergeant," said I, "sit down. What is it?"