Isabel looked the cousins up and down as if seeing them for the first time. “My goodness. You’ve both grown so much, I hardly recognize you. Now, are we all set for Egypt?”
“I’ll get the tea.” Gran bustled off in the direction of the kitchen with Toby and Fergus trotting hopefully after her.
“Don’t forget the cake, Gran!” Justin called out as their grandmother disappeared from view.
Pointing to the open books, Adam asked, “Are you writing another article, Aunt Isabel?”
“Perhaps I am.” Isabel had a mysterious expression on her face. “Maybe something on this Scottish archaeologist.” She pointed to her desk where a newspaper lay open, half-hidden beneath the books.
“What archaeologist?” the boys chorused. They loved hearing about how their aunt came up with interesting stories. Many of her articles had won her top awards for journalism.
As soon as Justin read the bold headline—“Controversial Archaeologist Sticks to Legend Claim”—he grabbed the newspaper. “That’s the guy who says there was an ancient Egyptian ruler called the … um … something king—I forget the name—and that there’s treasure still hidden away in a tomb somewhere.”
“The Scarab King,” Adam broke in. “Miss Briggs read us the article in history class.”
“Well,” Isabel said, “it’s an interesting theory, but none of the experts have found any important reference to this king. Looks as if he’s on a wild goose chase.”
Gran appeared in the doorway to summon them to tea. “What’s this about a goose, a scarab, and a king?”
Justin put on an air of importance as he explained. “Gran, we just did Egypt in history class. It was so interesting because there was a big article in the local newspaper about this archaeologist James Kinnaird and his controversial theories.”
“What’s contro—controv—?” Adam asked.
“It means he says what he thinks,” Isabel replied.
Adam was confused. “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?”
“Well,” his aunt murmured, “I suppose it depends who you’re talking to.”
Gran put her hands on her hips and then raised her eyebrows. “I’m just an old lady who doesn’t know anything so will somebody please explain.”
Isabel replied, “James Kinnaird is a Scottish archaeologist who’s always off on some fantastical quest or other. He says he’s made a sensational discovery about ancient Egypt that will rewrite history.”
She walked over to her desk and flipped open a large book, riffling through the pages until she found a map of ancient Egypt. “Come and look at this. Then it’ll be clearer.”
The boys and Gran clustered around the desk.
“As we know,” Isabel continued, “Egypt was once divided into two parts, Upper and Lower Egypt. It’s plainly marked here.”
“I know,” Justin interrupted. “The two Egypts were united by a king called Menes, I think. And that’s when they started recording history and the Egyptian dynasties for the first time, right?”
“That’s quite right, Justin. However, Mr. Kinnaird believes the Scarab King lived long before that time. Not much is known about him, but there seems to be some sort of popular legend about his treasure. It would be a major archaeological scoop for whoever found it. It would make a great story for the newspapers as well.”
Isabel smiled at her nephews’ eager faces. “About a year or two ago, James Kinnaird made this his quest, just about demanding that the Egyptian government allow him to search for the Scarab King’s tomb. He managed to ruffle so many official Egyptian feathers that he was almost deported. It’s rather strange he’s been so insistent.”
“I thought the Egyptians were keen to dig up stuff from the past,” Gran remarked.
“Yes, I’m sure they are,” Isabel said, closing the book, “but recently there have been an extraordinary number of thefts of valuable artifacts from archaeological digs. Artifacts are being smuggled out of Egypt at an alarming rate. Mr. Kinnaird has pointed fingers at certain people in high positions in the Egyptian government, almost accusing them of stealing.”
“Hey,” Adam said, “this is a chance to look for treasure ourselves. We could make a discovery that’ll go down in history. We could be famous.”
Justin scoffed at him. “What rot! If experienced guys like that archaeologist can’t find anything, how do you expect us to? Anyway, we’ll be on a tour. We can’t just go off and look for things.”
Adam glared at his cousin. “I don’t know how, but anything can happen in Egypt.” He hated feeling put down like that. Justin could be quite mean at times.
Then Adam beamed hopefully at his aunt. “We could have an adventure, Aunt Isabel. Just a small one.”
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