Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner
“No,” Jessie said, still puzzled. It wasn't like her to lose things.
“Maybe you left it around here somewhere,” Benny suggested.
The children spent the next few minutes searching the prep roomâunder the tables, on Sam's desk, behind the coffin. Then they moved on to the exhibit hall and looked all over the room. The blue notebook was nowhere to be found.
“Maybe you left it at home,” said Violet.
“I don't think so,” said Jessie. “I didn't look at it there.”
Benny frowned. “The mummy's curse strikes again!”
The next morning, Pete met the Aldens at the door to the prep room. “Sam isn't here yet, but you can wait for her in there.”
As Pete headed back down the hall toward the stairs, the children pushed open the door to the prep room. It was dark and quiet inside.
At the end of the room the Aldens could make out the coffin where the mummy lay.
For a moment no one said or did anything. The room felt creepy with no one around but the mummy.
Then Jessie broke the silence. “What are we waiting for? Let's go in.” She led the way inside and turned on the light. Suddenly it was just an ordinary room.
“When do you think Sam will get here?” Benny asked.
“I wish she'd told us what she needed us to do today” said Jessie. “We could have gotten startedâwe have only two days left until the exhibit opens.”
“I know what we can work on,” Violet said. “Remember Sam said she was meeting with the person who's designing the guide for the exhibit? Well, what if we made a special guide for kids?” Violet asked.
“What do you mean?” asked Jessie.
“It could give some information about ancient Egypt that kids might like to know,” Violet said.
“It could explain how they make mummies,” Benny put in.
“And we could make up some games and activities about the exhibit, too,” Violet added.
“This is like doing a report on Egypt, only more fan,” Jessie said. “I'll go down to Pete's office and see if he has some books we can use for research.”
“Great idea,” Violet said. “I'll come with you.”
When they had left, Benny said, “I'll make up some games for the guide. I'm good at games.” He looked around the room for a place to sit. It was a small room. Most of it was filled with the tables of artifacts, waiting to be arranged in the display cases. Benny didn't think it would be right to sit down at Sam's desk. The little bit of extra space at the end of the room held the coffin. Benny remembered the mummy's curse and shivered.
“Why don't you go in the exhibit hall? You can sit down on the floor in there,” Henry suggested, unlocking the door for his little brother. “I'm going to stay in here and look at the artifacts to get some ideas.”
“Okay,” Benny said. He pushed open the door to the exhibit hall. There were no windows and it was dark and eerily quiet inside. He felt on the wall for a light switch but didn't feel any. “Henry?” he called back into the prep room.
Henry was concentrating on the artifacts and didn't answer.
“Henry?” he called again.
“Yes?” Henry said at last.
“Where's the light switch?” Benny asked.
“It's over by the main entrance,” Henry said.
“Oh, okay,” said Benny. All he had to do was walk across the room and turn on the light. But for some reason he felt nervous. He felt as if he weren't alone in the room, as if someone were hiding in the darkness.
“This is silly,” he said to himself. “That mummy has me spooked.”
Benny began walking across the room. As he walked, he again had a strange feeling that someone was watching him. He could feel someone's eyes on him.
He stopped walking and looked slowly around. “Hello?” he said, his voice shaky in the large, dark, silent room. No one answered. “Hello?” he called again.
Benny felt a prickling sensation on the back of his neck. His palms began to sweat.
He walked quickly to the other door and was relieved when he found the light switch there. He turned it on and looked back around the room. Everything seemed so different in the bright light.
Benny sat down on the floor with his paper and thought for a moment. Then he began to draw a maze. It was supposed to look like a path through a tomb, and you had to find the mummy at the end.
But even with the light on, he didn't feel comfortable. He kept looking over his shoulder, sure that someone, not just a person in a painting, was watching him.
At last, Benny gave up and went back into the prep room to see what Henry was doing. He came in just as Violet and Jessie were returning from Pete's office, their arms full of books.
Henry was standing at one of the tables of artifacts, studying them. He looked upset.
“What's the matter?” Jessie asked.
Henry looked around at all the tables once more before answering.
“Remember that blue hippo that Dr. Snood was looking at?” he asked.
“Yes,” Jessie said.
“I don't see it,” said Henry.
The other three walked slowly around the tables. After a moment Jessie said, “You're right. It's not here.”
“Not again,” said Violet, putting down the books she'd been holding on Sam's desk. “That's the third piece missing!”
“Maybe Dr. Snood just put it somewhere else,” Jessie said. “He looked very interested in it.”
“Yes, maybe that's it,” Violet agreed.
“We'll ask Sam when she comes in,” Henry said. “We've got to find those pieces before the exhibit opens, and we've got only two days left.” Then he noticed the books that Jessie and Violet had brought up. “It looks like you guys found a lot of books.”
“We did,” said Jessie. “Let's go in the exhibit hall and take a look.”
The Aldens went into the next room and sat down on the floor.
Â They each took a book on their laps and began to flip through them. One book had beautiful photographs of pyramids and maps of Egypt. Another book contained pages of hieroglyphics. And Benny pulled out a book that told how to make a mummy. “Look at this.” He pointed to a picture of a shriveled body that had been unwrapped from a mummy. “Gross!”
“But isn't it amazing that you're looking at the face of a person who lived thousands of years ago?” Henry asked.
“I guess so,” said Benny making a face.
Sam arrived a few minutes later. “Why all the grim faces?” she asked.
“Bad news,” said Henry. “Another piece is missing. The little blue hippo.”
The children all hoped that Sam would say something like,
Oh, that's okay. I just put it in a different room.
But instead, she said nothing. She looked at the children and then walked into the prep room. The Aldens followed as Sam went from table to table, a worried look on her face. Then she sank down into a chair and buried her head in her hands. Henry stood silently beside her, unsure what to do.
“This is terrible,” Sam said at last, slowly lifting her head to look at Henry. “When did you notice it was gone?”
“Just this morning,” said Henry. “I was looking for it because I remembered that Dr. Snood had been holding it yesterday when we left.”
“Dr. Snood was holding it?” Sam said slowly.
“Yes,” Henry said.
“That's ... interesting,” Sam said.
“You don't think he would have put it somewhere, do you?” Henry asked.
“I don't know,” said Sam. “I hope that's the explanation. I'll have to ask him.” She got up slowly and put her briefcase on her desk. “What have you been working on this morning?”
“We're doing a kids' guide for the exhibit,” Violet said. The children excitedly told Sam all about it.
“That's a great idea!” Sam said. “I'll take a look at it when you're done, and we can print copies downstairs.” She unloaded some papers from her bag. When she had finished, she said, “I'm going down to speak to Dr. Snood. I'll see you later.”
After she'd left, Violet turned to the others. “I hate to think that someone would steal things from the museum.”
“I do, too,” said Henry. “But what other explanation could there be for the missing pieces?”
“I wonder if it has something to do with the Carson City Museum,” Benny said. He told the others what he and Violet had overheard the day before.
“You think someone at the Carson City Museum is so angry at the Greenfield Museum they would try to mess up the exhibit?” Jessie asked.
“Maybe, to make the Greenfield Museum look bad,” said Benny.
“I think it's time we paid a visit to the Carson City Museum to see what we can find out,” said Henry.
The children stacked the books in a corner of the prep room and gathered up their backpacks. After locking the doors behind them, they headed back home.
When the Aldens got home, they found Grandfather sitting in the living room, reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee. “You're back early today,” he said. “It's not even lunchtime.”
“Grandfather, can we go to the Carson City Museum?” Henry asked.
Mr. Alden smiled. “You kids sure have caught the museum bug.”
“Well ...” Jessie looked at her sister and brothers. They hadn't mentioned anything about the missing pieces to their grandfather yet. But they never kept secrets from him. “There have been some strange things going on at the museum,” she explained. “First it looked like someone had come into Sam's office and made a big mess. Then a few pieces from the exhibit disappeared.”
“Really?” said Grandfather, looking concerned.
“Yes,” said Henry. “No one seems to know what's going on.”
“But you have an idea?” Mr. Alden asked. He knew the children were excellent mystery solvers.
“We don't know,” Henry said. “But we found out that the director of the Carson City Museum was upset they didn't get the Egyptian exhibit. We're wondering if she could have anything to do with the strange things happening at the Greenfield Museum.”
“Do you really think she would do something to hurt another museum?” Grandfather looked as if he couldn't really believe it.
“We don't know,” said Jessie. “But we thought we'd just take a look around there and see what we can learn.”
“You sure are good detectives,” Grandfather said. “Whatever you find, I think you'll enjoy that museum. It has some nice exhibits.”
Mr. Alden went to a cabinet in the front hall and pulled out a map. “Here are the bus routes to Carson City,” he said as he unfolded the map and laid it on the dining room table. The children gathered around to look.
“You'll take the number-seven bus,” Grandfather said, pointing to a purple line. “You see, it starts here in Greenfield and goes to Carson City. The bus will let you off at the museum.” He traced the bus route with his finger.
“Sounds easy enough,” said Henry.
Grandfather folded up the map and handed it to Jessie. He gave each of the children two tokens for the bus. “One for the way there, and one for the way home.” The children tucked the tokens into their pockets. “You can get the bus right down at the corner. Call if you need me.”
“All right,” Jessie said as the children headed out the door. “We'll be home by dinnertime.”
The children walked down to the corner, where a street sign and a bench marked the bus stop.
“Remember to stick together,” Henry said. “We don't want anyone to get lost.”
The others nodded.
A few minutes later, a large, white bus pulled up to the stop. The children boarded the bus and put their tokens in the box. Then they found seats near the back of the bus.
The bus ride took about fifteen minutes. They were going down a busy street when Henry said, “I see the museum up ahead.” He pulled a cord to signal the bus driver, and the bus came slowly to a stop at the next corner.
“Come on, you guys,” Henry said, leading the way off the bus.
The children stood for a moment looking up at the museum before they went in. It was much larger than the Greenfield Museum, with white marble steps and columns in the front. There were three colorful banners hanging down between the columns, describing the exhibits on display. THINGS THAT SLITHER, read one banner with a large picture of a snake. Another banner said, CELEBRATIONS AROUND THE WORLD, and had a picture of a globe. The last said, GREAT PAINTERS OF OUR CENTURY.
“Well, here we are,” said Jessie. “Let's go in and see what we can find out.”
The children entered the lobby and paid the fee to enter. “Where should we go first?” Violet asked. They all looked around the lobby, which was much larger and more crowded than the one at the Greenfield Museum. None of them was really sure what they were looking for, or where they should look.
“I want to see that snake exhibit!” said Benny.