An ancient curse has been let loose in cold wintry Cambridge. Priceless artefacts are found mysteriously crushed to dust at the Fitzwilliam Museum, long-dead Egyptian queens stalk the corridors of Girton College – but what do bicycles and bloomers have to do with it all?
Slightly Jones is faced with her most bewildering case yet – and her most ruthless opponents. Can she find the answer in time, or will it be a bleak midwinter for everyone?
The college was so big and empty and echoey and strange that Slightly found herself hoping that Matthew really wasn’t extra good at Hide and Go Seek! She kept going, but she was running on tip-toe now, her breath coming faster and faster …
And then she heard something that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
Someone, somewhere in the big empty building, was singing. It was a strange, wordless, wailing song, infinitely sad. Infinitely exotic.
Trying not to breathe, Slightly crept forward. She came to the foot of a staircase. The steps were in shadow. And there was Matthew, standing dead still, listening. She was sure she hadn’t made a sound, but he turned towards her anyway, and put his finger to his lips.
The singing was coming from somewhere overhead. It made Slightly think of places far away, places ruled by heat and dust. The music was muted at first and then grew louder, as if the singer had turned towards them, as if she were singing now to them, drawing them into her web of sound. The cold of the stone floor working its way through Slightly’s shoes - the low fizzing of the gas lamps in the corridor behind her - the darkness of a winter afternoon at the window – they all faded, and only this song of the south seemed real. A faint, strange scent hung in the air for a moment, and then was gone. Without realising what she was doing, Slightly took a step forward. And another. And another. Her foot knocked against the bottom step – and the singing stopped abruptly.
“Look,” breathed Matthew.
A disembodied face floated in the dimness above them, looking down.
She hadn’t realized she’d clutched Matthew’s arm until she heard him squeak in protest.
And then the face spoke.
… that Girton College had its own fire brigade from 1879? First year students practised before breakfast, running out the hoses, working the pump and climbing ladders – which must have been tricky in those long skirts.
…that my medieval series The Wickit Chronicles also takes place in the Fens, not far from Cambridge? Slightly wouldn’t have recognised it, though, because in the 12th century, the whole area was one enormous, misty, mysterious swamp.
…that years and years ago, when I was visiting Cambridge, I saw a winter mist just like the one in The Case of the Cambridge Mummy? It was long before I’d thought of Slightly Jones or her adventures, but I knew I’d use it in a book someday – and now I have!
Here are the answers to the questions in the back of The Case of the Cambridge Mummy
True or False?
a) Miss Sprottle was right when she said that women would become fully part of Cambridge University very soon – certainly before the beginning of the new 20th century.
FALSE. It was not until 1947 that women were finally made full members of the university.
b) The effigy of the lady on a bicycle was hung out in the town centre in 1897, in protest against the idea of women being given degrees.
TRUE. The male students were so appalled at the thought of females earning degrees that they hung an effigy of a bicycling lady, wearing bloomers, out of a second storey window, and wore “NO WOMEN” signs in their hats.
c) In Victorian times, some people thought that too much studying would make a female’s brain overheat.
TRUE. Unfortunately this is unlikely to work as an excuse to your teacher nowadays. “Sorry, Miss, I couldn’t do my homework because my brain overheated …”
Do you know who Pegasus was?
Pegasus was a mythological winged horse.
What does the Egyptian name Kepi mean?
It means tempest or storm.