Read Mystery of the Mummy's Curse Online

Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner

Mystery of the Mummy's Curse (2 page)

BOOK: Mystery of the Mummy's Curse
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“I hope you don't mind my bringing some mummy hunters along,” Pete said.

“Not at all,” Dr. Dickerson said. The children were glad to see that she was much friendlier than Dr. Snood. “This is my assistant, Tina,” she said, motioning to the blond woman beside her. Then she turned back to Pete. “It's here!” she said with a big smile on her face. She looked as excited as the children.

“Are there two mummies?” Benny asked.

“No—one crate holds the mummy, and the other holds its coffin,” Dr. Dickerson said. “They're packed very carefully and shipped separately so they won't get damaged. Later, we'll unpack the mummy and put it into its coffin. For now, we've just removed the tops of the crates so we could make sure everything is in one piece.” She turned to Pete. “Do you have a stepladder so we can get a look inside?”

Pete went out to a closet in the hall and came back a moment later with a stepladder, which he placed beside one of the crates. Dr. Dickerson climbed up and carefully removed several large pieces of foam rubber that had fit snugly into place over the top of the mummy. At last, she peered down into the crate, and a broad smile spread across her face.

“There he is,” Dr. Dickerson said. “Our mummy.”

After a moment, she stepped down and Pete climbed up to take a look. “Come on over and see,” he said to the Aldens.

Pete stepped down. One at a time, the Aldens climbed up the stepladder and peered into the crate. Inside, they saw what looked like a person lying down, completely covered in cloth bandages. But the person had no face. Where the face should have been, there were just bandages, giving it a strange, creepy look.

“Wow!” said Benny. He couldn't believe there was really a dead body inside. He felt a chill run up his spine.

Henry was the last of the children to look into the crate. He stepped down and Tina stepped up in his place. “Oh, look at that,” she said, peering into the crate. But as she shifted her feet on the top of the stepladder, she suddenly fell. “Ow!” she cried out as she landed on the floor.

Everyone rushed over. Dr. Dickerson knelt on the floor beside Tina. “What happened?” she asked, helping Tina to sit up. “Are you hurt?”

Tina grimaced in pain. “My ankle,” she said, gritting her teeth. “I think I twisted it.”

Dr. Dickerson and Pete looked at Tina's ankle. It was turning pink and beginning to swell. As Pete gently touched her ankle, Tina winced in pain.

“We'd better put ice on that to stop the swelling,” Jessie suggested. “I'll run down to the café and get some.”

“That would be great,” Dr. Dickerson said.

“Yes, thank you,” Tina said, her voice filled with pain.

Jessie came back a moment later with the ice. Tina held it on her ankle for several minutes. But her pain did not let up.

“I think we'd better take Tina over to the hospital,” Dr. Dickerson said. “We should get some X rays and see if anything's broken.”

Dr. Dickerson drove Tina to the hospital, promising to call as soon as they knew how bad Tina's ankle was.

Pete and the Aldens waited in the prep room. “How would you guys like to see some of the other pieces in the exhibit?” Pete asked, trying to cheer everyone up.

“That would be great,” Jessie said, speaking for all of them.

Pete led them over to one of the tables where some things had been unpacked from their boxes and arranged in neat rows. Next to each item was a small card with information printed on it. “These statues show what life was like in ancient Egypt.” There was a woman carrying a basket on her head, and a man holding a pitcher. Some of the statues were part human and part animal. “That's how the ancient Egyptians portrayed their gods,” Pete explained.

On another table were statues carved from gray limestone, white alabaster, and yellow jasper. Some were made of clay or wood and were painted in bright colors. There were animal sculptures in gold and silver and bronze. There were also cups and pots, necklaces and bracelets.

“The Egyptians thought that after you died, in the ‘afterlife,' you'd need everything you used when you were alive,” Pete said. “So they buried their dead with plates, clothes, jewelry, and sometimes even chariots.

“Those two gold cats are beautiful,” Violet said.

“I like the funny monkey,” said Benny, pointing to a statue of a baboon.

“Over here we have instruments,” Pete said, pointing to a wooden flute decorated with gold. “The Egyptians loved to sing, dance, and make music.”

“What did children play back then?” Benny asked.

“Well, they didn't have video games or TV,” said Pete. “But I think some of their toys will look familiar to you.”

“Really?” asked Benny.

Pete pointed to the end of the table.

“Those look like balls,” Henry said.

“That's right,” said Pete. “Balls, marbles, spinning tops. Imagine—these toys were used thousands of years ago.”

“Here's a doll that belonged to a little girl in ancient Egypt,” Pete continued. The doll's body was made from a flat board decorated with patterns, and her hair was strung with clay beads. “It looks different from dolls today, but I'm sure the girl who owned it loved it just as much.”

Just then the phone rang.

Pete picked up the receiver. “Hello? Yes, Sam. How is she?”

The Aldens watched as Pete's face darkened. “Oh, that's terrible,” he said. “I'll see you when you get back.”

Pete hung up the phone and turned to the children. “Tina's ankle is broken. She'll have to stay off it for several weeks.”

“That's awful!” Violet said.

“Yes, poor Tina,” Pete said. “And without her help, how will we get this exhibit ready in time?”

“She had just looked at the mummy when she fell,” said Benny.

Pete frowned. “Maybe it's the mummy's curse,” he said.

CHAPTER 2
The Mummy's Curse

“What's the mummy's curse?” Jessie asked.

“Some people believe mummies should not be removed from where they were buried,” said Pete. “They believe mummies carry evil spells to punish anyone who disturbs them.
That
'
s
the mummy's curse.”

“Really?” Benny asked, his eyes wide.

“A long time ago, when scientists were digging up a mummy, if someone died or got hurt or something else bad happened, people would say it was because of the curse,” Pete went on.

“Is there really such a thing?” Violet asked.

“What do you think?” Pete said.

“No. If something bad happened it was just a coincidence,” Henry said firmly.

“That's right,” Pete said. “There's no such thing as ghosts or magic spells. And there's no such thing as a mummy's curse.”

Still, Benny's eyes were wide. “But Tina fell
right after
she looked at the mummy,” he said.

“I was just joking before,” Pete said kindly. “It was an unfortunate accident, but it wasn't the mummy's fault.”

But Benny didn't look as if he believed that. He backed away from the crate holding the mummy. He was afraid he might fall and get hurt, too.

The phone rang again. “Hello?” Pete said, picking up the receiver. “Yes, Reginald, that's right.” The Aldens watched as Pete listened to what Dr. Snood was saying. He did not look happy.

“No, it's not a room we normally use,” Pete said, “But—”

Again he was silent as Dr. Snood spoke. The children wondered what he was saying.

“All right,” Pete said. “I'll see what I can figure out.” Then he hung up the phone and sighed heavily.

“Is something wrong?” Violet asked gently.

“Well, if there were a mummy's curse, I'd say it's struck again,” Pete said.

“What do you mean?” Benny asked. He sounded nervous.

Pete smiled at Benny's worried look. “Don't worry, Benny. It's not that bad.” He patted Benny on the shoulder. “The exhibit was going to be in a hall we don't usually use. That was Dr. Snood on the phone. He said the cleaning crew is too busy to clean the extra room. And there's no money left in the budget to hire an extra crew. Without Tina
and
without the cleaning crew, we'll never get the exhibit ready in time.” He sighed again.

“I have an idea,” Jessie said.

“You do?” Pete asked, peering wearily over his fingers.

“We could help you,” she said.

Pete sat up and smiled. “That's nice, but this is a big job. I'm not really sure you'd be able to help us get our exhibit ready in time.”

“But there are lots of things we could do,” Jessie said. “We're great cleaners. We could do the work you needed the cleaning crew to do. And we'll do it for free.”

“Yeah,” said Henry, getting excited. “And we can carry boxes and help Dr. Dickerson. Whatever needs to be done.”

Pete was looking thoughtful.

“Why don't you call our grandfather and ask him,” Henry suggested.

Pete picked up the telephone, and a few minutes later it was decided. The Aldens had a job. “You start first thing tomorrow,” Pete said.

“Great,” said Jessie. “We'll be back tomorrow morning, bright and early!”

As they headed out, the children stopped in the prep room to pick up their jackets, which they'd left there.

While Henry, Jessie, and Violet put on their jackets, Benny turned to look at the two huge crates that were still at the end of the room. He couldn't resist stealing one last peek at the mummy. Benny walked over, got up on the stepladder, and peered down into the crate. The mummy was lying there, just as it had been before. Its blank face pointed up at the ceiling as if it were waiting for something.

Benny thought about the mummy's curse. The room seemed too quiet. He looked up and realized the others had left without him. Suddenly, he felt lonely and a little bit scared. He quickly got down from the stepladder.

“Hey, you guys, wait for me!” he called, running to catch up.

As they were leaving the building, Henry noticed a familiar face in the lobby. It was the woman he'd seen at lunch.

This time, the woman walked right up to them and introduced herself. “Hi, I'm Lori Paulson. I saw you guys in the café.”

“Yes, we were there,” Jessie said, surprised to be recognized by a stranger.

“So what have you been doing here all afternoon?” Ms. Paulson asked.

“We got to see the—” Benny began, but Jessie interrupted him.

“What my little brother was starting to say was, we just love this museum. We've been exploring.”

“And we got to see the—” Benny began again.

This time, Henry grabbed Benny's arm and pulled him off to the side. “Remember, Pete said the new exhibit is supposed to be a secret,” he whispered.

Meanwhile, Jessie was talking to Ms. Paulson. “We're the Aldens. I'm Jessie and this is my sister Violet. Those are my brothers, Henry and Benny.”

“It's nice to meet you,” Ms. Paulson said.

“What have
you
been doing here all afternoon, Ms. Paulson?” Jessie asked.

“Call me Lori,” she said. “I've been ... Oh, I just love the museum, too.” She smiled, and for a moment Jessie thought she looked uncomfortable. “I come here all the time.”

Now Benny remembered not to talk about the mummy. He asked Lori, “Don't you love the dinosaurs?”

“I didn't know they had dinosaurs here,” Lori said.

“Not real dinosaurs, of course,” Benny said. “But they've got a bunch of skulls and bones in that big room at the back.”

“Thanks for telling me,” Lori said. “I'll have to check that out.”

Jessie looked at her watch. Their housekeeper, Mrs. McGregor, would be putting dinner on the table soon. “I'm sorry, but we've got to be going.”

“Oh, um ...” Lori seemed to want to ask the children something. Finally, she said, “Did I see you talking to the curator at lunch?”

“Yes, Pete Miller is a friend of our grandfather's,” Henry said.

Lori's face lit up. “Did he mention anything about the new Egyptian exhibit?”

The Aldens all looked at each other, not sure what to say. They didn't want to lie, but they also knew they weren't supposed to talk about the exhibit.

“He just told us that it was opening in a couple of weeks,” Henry said at last.

“What's going to be in the exhibit?” Lori asked. “Will there be a mummy?”

“We've got to go,” Jessie said, pointing to her watch. “Sorry.”

“But—” Lori began, but the Aldens quickly headed off before she could ask any more questions.

As the Aldens walked down the front steps of the museum, Henry turned to the others. “She was in the cafeteria when we were having lunch. She kept staring at us the whole time.”

“I wonder why she's so curious about the new exhibit,” Jessie added.

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