But admitting that now, at last, we have lighted upon the genuine and authentic Doctor Glyphic, why should the sight of him so oddly affect Balder Helwyse, whose avowed object in pulling off the dial-plate had been to justify a suspicion that Uncle Hiero was behind it? Why, moreover, did the young man not address his relative, congratulating himself upon their meeting, and rallying the old gentleman on his attempt to escape his nephew’s affectionate solicitude? There had, indeed, been a misunderstanding at their last encounter, and Balder had so far forgotten himself as to throw Hiero into the sea; but it was the part of good-breeding, as well as of Christianity, to forget such errors, and heal the bruise with an extra application of balsamic verbiage.
Why so speechless, Balder? Do you wait for your host to speak first? Nay, never stand on ceremony. He is an eccentric recluse, unused to the ways of society, while a man of the world like you has at his tongue’s tip a score of phrases just suited to the occasion. Speak up, therefore, in your most genial tone, and tell the Doctor how glad you are to find him in such wonderful preservation! Put him at his ease by feigning that his position appears to you the most natural in the world,—just what befits a gentleman of his years and honors! Flatter him, if only from self-interest, for he has a deep pocket, and may be induced to let you put a hand in it.
Not a word in response to all this eloquence, Balder? Positively your behavior appears rather curmudgeonly than heroic! You stand gazing at your relative with almost as much fixedness as he returns your stare withal. There is something odd about this.
What is that pungent odor? Is the Doctor a dandy, that he should use perfumes? And where did he get so peculiar a scent as this? It is commonly in vogue only at that particular toilet which no man ever performed for himself, but which never needs to be done twice,—a kind of toilet, by the way, especially prevalent amongst the ancient Egyptians. Since, then, Doctor Glyphic is so ardent an Egyptologist, perhaps we have hit upon the secret of his remarkable odoriferousness. But to shut one’s self up in a box that looks so uncommonly like a coffin,—is not that carrying the antiquarian whim a trifle too far?
This face of his,—one fancies there is a curiously dry look about it! The unnaturally yellow skin resembles a piece of good-for-nothing wrinkled parchment. The lips partake of the prevailing sallow tint, and the mouth hangs a little awry. From the cloth in which the head is so elaborately bandaged up strays forth, here and there, an arid lock of hair. The lack of united expression in his features produces an effect seldom observable in a living face. The eyes are lustreless, and densely black; or possibly (the suspicion is a startling one) we are looking into empty eye-sockets! No eyes, no expression, parchment skin, swathed head, odor