Chapters 15-16 Summary
The Ceremony for the Dead
When Elizabeth's pet parakeet dies, April and Melanie plan an elaborate funeral to help lift their friend's spirits. Before they even get to Egypt, the girls have formulated the background material to explain the demise of "Prince Pete-ho-tep, son of the great Queen Neferbeth," who has fallen nobly in battle. When they arrive at the Professor's storage yard, the original Egyptians are pleased to discover that the new members, Toby and Ken, are "gratifying enthusiastic" about this new chapter in the game as well.
The children's ideas spill forth pell-mell, and in no time at all, they have organized a procession for the honorably deceased. Marshall leads the way, carrying a smoking incense burner, followed by Elizabeth, the Chief Mourner. April and Melanie represent the "mourning populace," and they proceed, chanting and scattering flowers salvaged from the trash bin behind the local florist shop. Bringing up the rear are the two high priests, Ken and Toby, carrying the bier of the dead prince.
The ceremony unfolds with great drama, and Toby in particular throws himself into his part, staggering, wailing, and beating his chest with mournful abandon. His demeanor is so different from the "cool-cat sophistication" he maintains at school, that the girls are amazed, and unwittingly find themselves following his example. Reserved Ken also does "a lot better than anybody would have expected" in the spontaneous play-acting, although he never does quite overcome his deeply ingrained sense of self-consciousness.
That evening, Toby goes home and does some research on mummification, and the next day, he directs the immersion of the dead Prince Pete-ho-tep in a solution of salt water. The result is quite a mess, and everyone is a bit queasy when the soggy body is retrieved after an overnight soaking. Toby, however, saves the day by pouring fresh water over the dead bird and drying it with his T-shirt. Pete-ho-tep emerges "almost as good as new," and is buried with proper honors in a pyramid made of old bricks.
As the children become more comfortable in the land of Egypt, they forget about being cautious and secretive about their endeavors. They carry on their ceremonies and discussions in normal tones, and no longer worry about being discovered. Only Marshall, however, is aware that they actually are being watched, and he chooses not to tell.
The Oracle of Thoth
The next project undertaken in the Egypt Game is inspired by a talk about oracles given by the older children's sixth grade teacher. April, Melanie, Ken, and Toby are fascinated to learn that many ancient countries had depended on oracles of one kind or another to look into the future and help rulers "decide how to run things;" conveniently, one of these countries had been Egypt. After much discussion in the Professor's storage yard that afternoon, it is decided that Thoth, Toby's stuffed owl, will be the oracle in their magic land, and that the Egyptians will take turns asking him something. Each...
(The entire section is 774 words.)