There were twenty-five of them in all. Each stood on a small black pedestal on which was painted in white a number and a date; excepting one at the end, which had a scarlet pedestal and gold lettering. Number 1 bore the date 20th September, 1889, and Number 25 (the one with the red pedestal) was dated 13th May, 1909. I looked at this last one curiously; a massive figure with traces of great muscularity, a broad, Mongoloid head with large cheekbones and square eye-sockets. A formidable fellow he must have been; and even now, the broad, square face grinned out savagely from the case.
I turned away with something of a shudder. I had not come here to get “the creeps.” I had come for Challoner’s journal, or the “Museum Archives” as he called it. The volumes were in the secret cupboard at the end of the room and I had to take out the movable panel to get at them. This presented no difficulty. I found the rosettes that moved the catches and had the panel out in a twinkling. The cupboard was five feet high by four broad and had a well in the bottom covered by a lid, which I lifted and, to my amazement, found the cavity filled with revolvers, automatic pistols, life-preservers, knuckle-dusters and other weapons, each having a little label—bearing a number and a date—tied neatly on it. I shut the lid down rather hastily; there was something rather sinister in that collection of lethal appliances.
The volumes, seven in number, were on the top shelf, uniformly bound in Russia leather and labeled, respectively, “Photographs,” “Finger-prints,” “Catalogue,” and four volumes of “Museum Archives.” I was about to reach down the catalogue when my eye fell on the pile of shallow boxes on the next shelf. I knew what they contained and recalled uncomfortably the strange impression that their contents had made on me; and yet a sort of fascination led me to take down the top one—labelled “Series B 5”—and raise the lid. But if those dreadful dolls’ heads had struck me as uncanny when poor Challoner showed them to me, they now seemed positively appalling. Small as they were—and they were not as large as a woman’s fist—they looked so life-like—or rather, so death-like—that they suggested nothing so much as actual human heads seen through the wrong end of a telescope. There were five in this box, each in a separate compartment lined with black velvet and distinguished by a black label with white lettering; excepting the central one, which rested on scarlet velvet and had a red label inscribed in gold “13th May, 1909.”
I gazed at this tiny head in its scarlet setting with shuddering fascination. It had a hideous little face; a broad, brutal face of the Tartar type; and the mop of gray-brown hair, so unhuman in color, and the bristling mustache that stood up like a cat’s whiskers, gave it an aspect half animal, half devilish. I clapped the lid on the box, thrust it back on the shelf, and, plucking down the first volume of the “Archives,” hurried out of the museum.