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“Dad! What on earth are you doing?” shouted Amy, but received no answer since by that time David was halfway down the Pyramid. She sighed. “I suppose we’d better go after him. Maybe you boys should give Mum a hand – oh, where is Mum?”

There was a pause while they all looked round the platform, as though Augusta might have concealed herself behind a stone while they weren’t looking.

“Well, I guess we know where Dad’s gone,” said Phoebe. She peered over, then looked back at them, a slight smile on her lips. “Although he seems to have got carried away and dashed straight past Mum.”

For, indeed, Augusta was clinging to a crumbling rock a few feet below them, looking down at her husband, who was rapidly vanishing into the distance, his shouts still echoing around the Pyramid. After a minute or two she shook her head and looked up instead.

“Are you all right, Mum?” Amy slithered down beside her.

“Oh yes, I just fell down,” said Augusta. “But what on earth is your father doing? He just went vaulting down the Pyramid as though he’d spotted a signpost to the lost tomb of Imhotep.”

“I should imagine he was going after you,” said Phoebe, who had now descended the few feet and was perched beside them, looking as cool as though she was taking a stroll down Oxford Street. Augusta, on the other hand, might have spent the whole day on a particularly strenuous dig. Her hair stood on end, her face was smeared with dirt, sweat and some undefined yellow substance, which also adorned in places her dusty, crumpled old shorts and shirt. She stared at her daughter blankly.

“After me? But why ever? I’m up here and he’s nearly at the bottom.”

“I haven’t a clue. What actually happened, Mum? You can’t have just fallen down.”

“But I did! I was talking to David and I forgot I was standing near the edge, and I just sort of toppled over.”

Phoebe and Amy exchanged resigned glances. It might sound improbable, but it was the sort of thing Mum did. Once she had got overexcited about some wall pictures that she thought depicted some previously unknown Egyptian weapon, forgotten that she was standing on a narrow wooden platform and plunged head first into a chasm of as yet untested depth. Happily it had been filled with water at the bottom, which had broken her fall, and since they had extracted her before she drowned the episode had ended well.

“Well, we’d better go down and tell Dad you haven’t fallen right down and broken your neck. I expect he rushed past without even spotting you. Either that or he was going so fast he couldn’t stop himself.”

As Augusta prepared to lower herself to the next block, Amy gave a shriek of horror.

“Mum! Your hands – your arms! You can’t possibly climb down like that.”

“It’s only blood,” said Augusta reassuringly. “I didn’t so much fall as slide, and I scraped my arms and legs a bit. Don’t worry, I’ll clean up when we get back.”

“She’ll have to climb down as she is,” said Phoebe. “Unless you’ve got a whole proper first-aid kit dangling from that infernal contraption of yours, Amy.”

“Well, I’ve got some bandages and a pair of scissors and some antiseptic cream.” Amy tugged at the first-aid kit which she always kept dangling from the belt she had made herself and which was fitted with myriad hooks, pouches and loops so that she could carry everything that she felt might conceivably come in useful.

“Don’t be silly,” said Augusta. “Do you really think you can perform first aid on me when we’re perched four hundred and fifty feet above the ground on a bit of crumbling stone? Come on, David’s completely vanished now. Heaven knows what he’s doing.”

She let herself go and dropped to the next step, wobbled precariously for a moment or two, then steadied herself and went on down, the others trailing after her, Sphinx and John coming last and helping Randa and Ricky, who were rather small to manage three-foot steps by themselves. Despite the fact that they were all going as fast as they could, it still took them some time to reach the base of the Pyramid. Augusta looked round, but there was no sign of her husband.

“Where do you think he’s gone?” she said to Phoebe, who had completed her descent at the same time.

“Heaven knows. We’d better stay here and wait. I expect he’ll make his way back at some point.”

“Don’t you think we should go and look for him?”

“No,” said Phoebe firmly, visions of David and Augusta chasing each other round the Great Pyramid for the rest of the evening flitting through her mind. “We’ll wait here for him.”


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