How can you trust a person who has eyebrows as
thick and black as hairbrushes and smells of
boiled cabbage and pickled onions? Besides, Im
beginning to suspect hes up to something.
Whats worse, I think he suspects Im up to
something. Which I usually am.
Not that anyone would take the word of an eleven-
year-old girl against that of the Second Assistant
Curatoreven if that girl just happens to be the
daughter of the Head Curator of the museum and
is rather cleverer than most (or so Ive been told;
oddly, I dont think they meant it as a
compliment). As far as I can tell, it doesnt make
any difference to adults how clever children are.
They always stick together. Unless you are sick
or dying or mortally wounded, they will always
side with the other adult.
Thats certainly the case here, anyway. My father
oversees the Museum of Legends and
Antiquities, the second largest museum in
London. As a result, I spend most of my time
clattering around this old place. I dont mind.
Really. Well, not much anyway. Though it would be
nice if Father remembered I was here once in a
while. . . However, Ive got plenty to do. The
museums got loads of secrets, and Ive
discovered Im very good at ferreting out secrets.
And curses. Youd be surprised at how many
things come into the museum loaded with curses
bad ones. Ancient, dark, Egyptian-magic ones.
Take this morning, for example, when a crate
arrived from Mum.
At the sound of the buzzer, I hurried down to
Receiving. Dolge and Sweeny, the museums two
hired hands, were just opening the doors to the
loading area. Yellow fog began oozing into the
room like a runny pudding. Outside, I could make
out the drayman, blowing on his fingers and
stamping his feet, trying to stay warm as he
waited next to his cart. His carriage lanterns were
lit and looked like two fuzzy halos in the thick fog.
Sweeny hopped off the dock and together they
lifted a crate from the back of the cart and carried
it inside. As they made their way past me, I
craned forward to read the label. It was from
Thebes! Which meant it had to be from Mum. Her
first shipment from the Valley of the Kings! The
first of many, most likely.
Once theyd placed the crate on an empty
worktable, the drayman tipped his cap and hurried
back to his cart, anxious to be on his way. Dolge
closed the door behind him with a resounding
By this time, the curators had arrived, and we all
gathered round to watch Father open the crate. As
I inched closer, I saw that, once again, he wasnt
wearing any gloves. My own gloved fingers
twitched in dismay.
He paused, his hands hovering over the crate.
Arent you afraid youll get splinters? Everyone
turned to stare at me oddly.
Nonsense, he said.
Of course, I didnt give a fig about splinters. They
were the least of my worries. But I didnt dare tell
With everyones attention once again focused on
the crate, I shuffled closer to Fathers side, trying
to reach him before he actually touched whatever
it was that Mum had sent. I made it past Dolge
and Sweeny with no problem, but I had to hold my
breath as I sidled past Fagenbush. He glared at
me, and I glared back.
When I reached Fathers side, I dipped my hand
into the pocket of my pinafore just as he plunged
his hands into the crate. As unobtrusively as
possible, I slipped a small amulet of protection
out of my pocket and into his. Unfortunately, my
action did not go unnoticed. He paused and
scowled at me. What on earth are you doing?
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...