Authors: Natasha Narayan
The Book of Bones
Natasha Narayan was born in India but emigrated to England at the age of five. She has had many jobs in journalism including working as a war correspondent in Bosnia. Like Kit Salter, Natasha loves exploring new places. She hopes to see the Great Wall of China one day, probably by plane and bus rather than steamship and horse. She lives in Oxford.
A Kit Salter Adventure
New York â¢ London
Â© 2010 by Natasha Narayan
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, institutions, places, and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual personsâliving or deadâevents, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Kit Salter Adventures by Natasha Narayan
The Mummy Snatcher of Memphis
The Maharajah's Monkey
The Book of Bones
To Lulu, for all your kindness
“Enemy advancing!” Waldo cried, leaning out of the window.
“Are you sure?”
“Carriage stopping. Lady in red hat getting out and approaching house. Ringing doorbell.”
As if on cue, the doorbell chimed.
“Right. Troops on standby.”
The front door slammed. We heard the faint murmur of conversation. My father's bleating voice mingled with that of a shrill female. Any moment now our new governess would walk into the classroom and demand to take over. We couldn't let this happen. As every schoolchild knows, teachers are a lot like puppies. They must be taught who is in charge, or all hell breaks loose.
Instead of “puppy training” we had planned a spot of “teacher training” for our new governess. All right, we were going to play some practical jokes on her. These tricks would show Mrs. Glee who she was dealing with. First, we had balanced a bucket of water on top of the
door. It was just waiting to topple down and splatter the woman as she entered the schoolroom. Second, a gold coin glittered on the floor. When Mrs. Glee tried to pick it up, she would find it mysteriously stuck! Hopefully, she would become all flustered, not realizing we had glued it to the floor. Best of all was the “hat trick”: a raw duck egg sewn into the lining of the new bonnet we had bought her as a present.
When our Mrs. Glee put on the hat she would literally have egg all over her face.
Your friend Kit Salter had thought up the plan, but my allies Waldo and Isaac had taken it up enthusiastically. Indeed the egg was Isaac's idea. Everyone was behind the escapade, as we waited for my father and Mrs. Glee to appear. Everyone but goody-two-shoes Rachel.
“Every time you do something like this it blows up in your face!” Rachel snapped, glaring at me. “Why are you always so
, I am a child,” I snapped back, while Isaac and Waldo grinned sympathetically at me.
Rachel was playing her familiar role of wet blanket, her face as sour as an old lemon. She was overreacting, as usual. The tricks we'd planned to welcome Mrs. Glee to 8 Park Town, Oxford, were harmless enough. Just a few jolly jokes.
I don't want you to think we were being cruel. Hard
experience has taught me that I “learn” better without a governess. Our last teacher, a Miss Minchin, had left us to become engaged to the younger son of a baronet. My heart had leaped at the news. I thought I would be rid of all those boring attempts to turn me into a nice young lady. Plus lessons. I have never been all that keen on lessons.
I would be free. Gloriously free! At liberty to gallop about on my mare Jesse, have adventures and generally “educate” myself. Instead disaster struck. My father, Professor Theodore Salter, insisted we have a new governess. Luckily, I had been able to sit in on the interviews and dismiss all the candidates so far, for one reason or another. Finally, he had lost his patience. He proclaimed that if we didn't accept this Mrs. Glee, who was due to arrive any moment now, we would all be packed off to boarding school.
Boarding school was impossible. For a start you had to get up before dawnâand the food was said to be worse than prison.
So I had to think on my feet. Of course, Rachel warned, we would be punished, but I wasn't worried. Usually poor Father threatens us with various horrible punishmentsâand then he is so absentminded he simply forgets.
We heard a footfall on the landing. The dreaded governess-to-be had arrived.
“Enter the dragon.” I muttered. “Everyone ready?”
“Aye, aye, sir,” said Waldo, with a mock salute.
“Then let the games begin.”
Our tormentor appeared on the threshold. The sight gave me pause. Anyone less like a dragon than the gray-haired person chattering to Papa I could not imagine. Mrs. Glee was a tiny old thing, at least forty years old, dressed in widow's weeds, who was drifting toward us like a wisp of thistledown. Everything, from the faded red bonnet she carried, to the monocle she wore dangling around her neck, suggested genteel poverty. Her watery blue eyes exuded meekness. She was probably the relict of a vicar, I decided. I am a good judge of people, and there and then I decided she was a gentle, dreamy poppet.
“How lovely to meet you,” the lady trilled out as she glimpsed the four of us sitting at our desks. “I'm Vera Glee. But you can call me Vera, dears, for I don't like to stand on ceremony.”
“Call her Vera?” Who'd ever heard of calling a teacher by their first name?
As she advanced to the half-open door, I had an awful vision of the bucket crashing down on her head. We had made a dreadful mistake. This old lady looked too frail for jokes. We might knock her out. She might need a doctor, or to be rushed to hospital. Even
remember to punish us if we actually
our new governess.
“STOP!” I yelled, rising from my seat.
Too late. Father pushed open the door for Mrs. Glee and, forgetting that it is “ladies first,” advanced into our schoolroom. I froze as the bucket fell from its perch, just missing the side of his head. A stream of water poured over his hair.
“Kit!” he bleated, looking up at the ceiling. “It's raining indoors.”
“It's â¦ er â¦ the leak in the roof,” I said, desperately running to them, while Waldo and Isaac jumped up and tried to hide the bucket.
“But it's not raining outside,” he replied, glancing out of the window. Father is one of the cleverest men in England, if you want an opinion about the Petrarchan sonnet. Sometimes he's also reasonably sharp.
“Drains must be blocked,” Waldo jumped in.
“Must get that old oak chopped down,” Father muttered, while Rachel, who had grabbed a towel from the basin, dabbed at his sodden jacket.
Mrs. Glee had walked into the schoolroom and was peering dreamily at the gold sovereign glittering in the middle of the floor. She looked as if she had spotted a rainbow. Really the coin looked very inviting, gleaming on the bare boards.