May 13, 2012

The Mummy’s Hand, 1938 | Egyptian Mummy

The Mummy’s Hand, 1938
H.V. Morton

When I came out of the tombs at Qurna, and before my eyes had become used to the light, I was aware that people were running towards me. One of the first to arrive thrust something into my hand. I looked down and saw that I was holding the hand of a mummy. I did not wonder to whom it had belonged, or whether it had been a beautiful hand or an ugly one; I was only anxious to get rid of it. It was dry, black and claw-like, and was even more hideous than it need have been by the loss of one finger.

Egyptian Mummy
The man to whom it belonged refused to take it back, believing that as long as I held it there was a chance I might give him the shilling he was asking in preference to all the other things that old and young were thrusting on me. While I was wondering what to do, I saw a man who looked as old, as brown, as dried up and as horrible as any mummy, coming slowly in my direction, leaning on a staff.

Although his eyes were closed and he seemed to be blind, he found his way nimbly over the stone-scattered ground, and when he came near he cleared a way for himself by making savage swings with his staff at the legs of the crowd. Several children ran away howling, but I noticed that not one of those who received the blows showed any resentment, for such is the respect for age in the East.

The old man evidently had something important to say to me. When a few yards away, he slowly opened his eyes; and they were white. A desire to get away from this terrible old man came over me, but I waited to see what he wanted. Slowly he thrust his hand into the body of his shirt and drew forth a piece of coffin. It was horrible to see this old man, himself a walking mummy, trying to sell me a bit of coffin, and a nausea for this disgusting trade in tomb relics swept over me until I was ready to put distinguished archaeologist and all others who have dug up Egypts dead - Egyptian mummy - on the same level with this dreadful apparition.

I looked down at the mummy’s - Egyptian mummy - hand, which I was still holding, and decided to buy it for a shilling and bury it, or get rid of it somehow to put it out of its misery. My purchase seemed to astonish the crowd, and especially the man who had sold it, and they all disappeared shouting into the sandhills, leaving only the terrible old man standing in a bewildered, half-witted way, holding a piece of yellow coffin-wood.

I had no newspaper in which to wrap the mummy’s hand, and when I tried to put it in my pocket it clawed at the edge of the cloth and refused to go in. I began to feel sorry that I had bought it. To have buried it where I stood, or to have slipped it behind a rock, would have been futile, for it would have been rediscovered in a few hours and offered to some other visitor. There was nothing to do but to walk hand in hand with it until I could find a safe place to bury it. ... Egyptian Mummy

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