Tales of Mystery
6. The Jew's Breastplate (continued)
He had shown us in turn his mummies, his papyri, his rare
scarabs, his inscriptions, his Jewish relics, and his duplication
of the famous seven-branched candlestick of the Temple, which was
brought to Rome by Titus, and which is supposed by some to be lying
at this instant in the bed of the Tiber. Then he approached a case
which stood in the very centre of the hall, and he looked down
through the glass with reverence in his attitude and manner.
"This is no novelty to an expert like yourself, Mr. Mortimer,"
said he; "but I daresay that your friend, Mr. Jackson, will be
interested to see it."
Leaning over the case I saw an object, some five inches square,
which consisted of twelve precious stones in a framework of gold,
with golden hooks at two of the corners. The stones were all
varying in sort and colour, but they were of the same size. Their
shapes, arrangement, and gradation of tint made me think of a box
of water-colour paints. Each stone had some hieroglyphic scratched
upon its surface.
"You have heard, Mr. Jackson, of the urim and thummim?"
I had heard the term, but my idea of its meaning was
"The urim and thummim was a name given to the jewelled plate
which lay upon the breast of the high priest of the Jews. They had
a very special feeling of reverence for it--something of the
feeling which an ancient Roman might have for the Sibylline
books in the Capitol. There are, as you see, twelve magnificent
stones, inscribed with mystical characters. Counting from the
left-hand top corner, the stones are carnelian, peridot, emerald,
ruby, lapis lazuli, onyx, sapphire, agate, amethyst, topaz, beryl,
I was amazed at the variety and beauty of the stones.
"Has the breastplate any particular history?" I asked.
"It is of great age and of immense value," said Professor
Andreas. "Without being able to make an absolute assertion, we
have many reasons to think that it is possible that it may be the
original urim and thummim of Solomon's Temple. There is certainly
nothing so fine in any collection in Europe. My friend, Captain
Wilson, here, is a practical authority upon precious stones, and he
would tell you how pure these are."