“What do you mean by breaking into my rooms like this? Where’s your warrant?” asked the indignant Higgs in his high voice.
“There!” answered the first policeman, pointing to the sheet-wrapped form on the table.
“And here!” added the second, holding up the awful head. “As in duty bound, we ask explanation from that man of the secret conveyance of a corpse through the open streets, whereon he assaults us with the same, for which assault, pending investigation of the corpse, I arrest him. Now, Guv’nor” (addressing Sergeant Quick), “will you come along with us quietly, or must we take you?”
The Sergeant, who seemed to be inarticulate with wrath, made a dash for the shrouded object on the table, with the intention, apparently, of once more using it as a weapon of offence, and the policemen drew their batons.
“Stop,” said Orme, thrusting himself between the combatants, “are you all mad? Do you know that this woman died about four thousand years ago?”
“Oh, Lord!” said the policeman who held the head, addressing his companion, “it must be one of them mummies what they dig up in the British Museum. Seems pretty ancient and spicy, don’t it?” and he sniffed at the head, then set it down upon the table.
Explanations followed, and after the wounded dignity of the two officers of the Force had been soothed with sundry glasses of port wine and a written list of the names of all concerned, including that of the mummy, they departed.
“You take my advice, bobbies,” I heard the indignant Sergeant declaim outside the door, “and don’t you believe things is always what they seem. A party ain’t necessarily drunk because he rolls about and falls down in the street; he may be mad, or ’ungry, or epileptic, and a body ain’t always a body jest because it’s dead and cold and stiff. Why, men, as you’ve seen, it may be a mummy, which is quite a different thing. If I was to put on that blue coat of yours, would that make me a policeman? Good heavens! I should hope not, for the sake of the Army to which I still belong, being in the Reserve. What you bobbies need is to study human nature and cultivate observation, which will learn you the difference between a new-laid corpse and a mummy, and many other things. Now you lay my words to heart, and you’ll both of you rise to superintendents, instead of running in daily ‘drunks’ until you retire on a pension. Good-night.”
Peace having been restored, and the headless mummy removed into the Professor’s bedroom, since Captain Orme declared that he could not talk business in the presence of a body, however ancient, we resumed our discussion. First of all, at Higgs’s suggestion I drew up a brief memorandum of agreement which set out the objects of the expedition, and provided for the equal division amongst us of any profit that might accrue; in the event of the death of one or more of us, the survivors or survivor to take their or his share.