Chapters 19-20 Summary

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Confession and Confusion

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Toby makes arrangements to meet April and Melanie out on the playground during first recess the next day. He has a confession to make: he has been pretending to be the oracle, writing the answers to the Egyptians' questions. Toby explains that he had managed to peek at the queries on the slips of paper while everyone else had been bowing before Thoth's altar. He had then gone home and looked up the main words in the questions in a book of famous quotations, chosen fittingly mysterious answers, and returned to Egypt at night to write them on the backs of the missives entrusted to the oracle.

Toby defends his actions by arguing that he had just been trying to "keep things livened up," but admits that sneaking down to Egypt alone in the dark had been quite scary. He says that he had actually been "about to quit the oracle business" even before the others had decided to, because when he had been heading home from his last late-night venture to the Professor's storage yard, someone had been in the alley, and had tried to follow him.

The problem Toby, April, and Melanie must face now is what to do about Marshall, who fully believes that the oracle can help him find Security. After a short discussion, the three older children come up with a plan. April, who will play the high priestess, will conduct the ceremony of consulting the oracle as usual that afternoon, and she will pretend to read off the back of the little boy's query that Security has gone to visit relatives in Los Angeles. Melanie reasons that this will give everyone more time to look for the precious stuffed octopus, and, if it still is lost, Marshall will at least have a few days to get used to the idea that Security is really gone.

That afternoon in Egypt, everything goes as planned, until April makes the eerie discovery that, on the back of the slip of paper entrusted to Thoth, the words

Look under the throne of Set

have been written in a fine, completely unfamiliar script. Marshall happily goes over and reaches under the egg-crate which makes up the altar, and pulls out his slightly damp but otherwise intact stuffed octopus. As the ecstatic child sits with a radiant smile, hugging Security to his chest, the others gather together in alarm. Looking at the temple "that they had made themselves, out of ordinary stuff and their own imaginations," the children wonder: what in the world have they done?

Fear Strikes

The Egyptians continue to meet as usual over the next few days, but as a whole, no one really wants to try consulting the oracle again. Instead, the children sit around and talk; Security and the mysterious response to Marshall's question is a frequent topic, but they also discuss things like Christmas, which is right around the corner, and the still-unsolved murder in the neighborhood.  

One evening, the Rosses ask April to stay with Marshall while they go to a concert with Melanie. While April is getting ready to go down...

(The entire section contains 809 words.)

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