Chapters 21-23 Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1047

The Hero

At the police station, Marshall will not answer the inspector's questions, but he will talk to April if she does the asking. The little boy says that the man who grabbed April had orange hair and "spotted" skin. He identifies the culprit as the "man who carries things...

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The Hero

At the police station, Marshall will not answer the inspector's questions, but he will talk to April if she does the asking. The little boy says that the man who grabbed April had orange hair and "spotted" skin. He identifies the culprit as the "man who carries things at the store," but the inspector does not hear him.

The Professor is brought in, looking nervous and disheveled. When April, at the inspector's direction, asks Marshall if the reclusive man is the criminal, the boy responds that he is not. Marshall describes the Professor as "the man who watches us all the time...[from] his window." He says that the Professor is the one who broke the window when April was in trouble, and called for help.

Marshall reiterates that the person who tried to hurt April was the man who works at Mr. Schmitt's store, and April tells the inspector that he is referring to the shop's stockboy. The next day, Marshall picks the perpetrator, a red-headed man with freckles, out of a police lineup. The stockboy confesses to assaulting April, and to murdering the two other children in the neighborhood as well.

News gets around, and Marshall is regarded as a hero, but his newfound fame does not go to his head. The only difference in his behavior is an increased confidence in manner; he no longer needs to take Security with him wherever he goes, and only needs his stuffed octopus at night, when he is going to bed.

Gains and Losses

After April's close call, the Professor's storage yard is boarded up. The children mourn the loss of Egypt; in addition to being "full of...mystery and way-out imagining," the Egypt Game had been something special, "meant to be shared with best friends only—a life unknown to grown-ups and lived by kids alone."

At the beginning of Christmas vacation, April goes to the Professor's store, and finds that it is much changed. Mrs. Chung works there now, and things look "cleaner and brighter and not so cluttered." Uncharacteristically, the shop is filled with customers, and April must wait to see the Professor, whose real name, she learns, is Dr. Julian Huddleston.

When April thanks him for saving her life, Dr. Huddleston self-effacingly downplays his role in the incident. He shows April some Egyptian artifacts he has in a box on a shelf, and the two examine the pieces with shared interest. In answer to her question, Dr. Huddleston explains that he is not a medical doctor, but a doctor of philosophy, and says that he would prefer it if she and her friends would continue to simply call him "the Professor."

Later that day, April receives a letter from her mother, inviting her to come to Palm Springs for a few days to spend time with her and her new husband. Examining her own reactions, April finds that her feelings are muted; she is only a little happy to be asked, and also only a little angry "to be asked so late and for so little." April declines the invitation, telling her mother that she already has plans for Christmas with her friend Melanie, and with Caroline, whom she now calls "Grandma."

Christmas Keys

After dinner on Christmas Eve, the Professor meets with the Egypt gang at the Halls' apartment. He has come to tell them a story; a "Christmas story, in a way," but one that is sad, and yes, even terrible, but one which he feels they ought to hear.

The story begins when he was a young professor at the university. He had always been quiet and reserved, until one of his students, a young woman named Anne, came into his life and changed it forever. In contrast to the dour Professor, Anne was "fun-loving...and optimistic." They married, and spent their lives traveling; he studied the cultures of native tribes around the world, while she got involved "in various efforts to improve the living conditions of the people" in the areas they visited.

On their last trip, there was a local rebellion where Anne was working, and, tragically, she was killed. The Professor retreated into the small store near the Casa Rosada in California, which his wife had bought so that she could display and sell native artifacts from around the world. His existence shattered, the bereft gentleman gradually cut himself off from humankind, and he and the store became "dusty junkyards."

Then one day, the Professor heard noises coming from his storage yard, and looked out his window to see the children playing the Egypt Game. Despite his inclination to avoid contact with others, he was fascinated by what he saw, and continued to watch as the game developed. Although he tried to remain undetected, he sensed that the littlest of the children, Marshall, was aware of his presence.

It was the Professor who had put Marshall's forgotten stuffed octopus under the altar of Set to protect it from the rain. When he realized that the children could not find Security, he intervened, and helped them find the precious toy by pretending to be the oracle. Shortly thereafter, when April was being attacked, Marshall had looked to the window, where he knew the silent observer was watching over them. Goaded into action by the trusting, wordless appeal of the little boy, the Professor shook himself free of his self-imposed exile, broke open the window, and shouted for help.

After sharing his story, the Professor takes from his pocket a handful of keys. He gives a key to each of the six Egyptians; April, Melanie, Marshall, Elizabeth, Ken, and Toby will have access to the storage yard, and their magic land, whenever they want. This is his Christmas gift to them, but the gift they have given him is much more significant. By unwittingly including him in their imaginative play, they have helped him reestablish his connection with the rest of humanity.

The next day, April and Melanie spend time chatting. They are excited about returning to Egypt, but somehow, they know things will never be the same. Gloomily, they ruminate upon the situation for awhile, until April comes up with an idea. Turning to her friend, April asks thoughtfully, "Melanie...what do you know about Gypsies?" 

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