Chapter 33 Summary
In the morning, Bear leads the way up the road to Great Wexly. Crispin walks silently, afraid of what will happen there. By now, Bear knows when Crispin is scared. He offers quiet encouragement throughout the day’s walk. Unfortunately, Crispin has also learned to read his companion’s moods, and he can tell that Bear is more afraid than he admits.
At first, the road is empty, but as the pair nears the city, more and more people appear. Because Crispin has seen so little of the world, Bear takes the opportunity to explain the roles of the people they see. He points out peasants and nobility, pilgrims and nuns, and merchants from various far-flung cities. Crispin looks around curiously, noticing adults and children pulling wagons or carrying buckets on yokes across their shoulders. Wealthier people have oxen or horses to bear their burdens.
From people’s clothing, Bear can determine who they are and what they do. He makes Crispin give a penny to a Franciscan friar, a brown-robed monk who voluntarily lives in poverty. But when Bear spots a tax collector, he grows angry at the very sight. Crispin looks at the many colors and styles of people’s clothing in awe. He decides that he will someday learn to read the language of clothing, just as he will learn to read words.
As he nears the city, Crispin sees poor salespeople with their wares spread out on tables and blankets. He sees soldiers roughly shoving peasants aside. He notes, too, how the crowd parts in reaction to Bear’s impressive size. This makes Crispin feel safe and proud to be in Bear’s protection.
Eventually Crispin spots a huge wall made of brown stone. It stretches as far as he can see in either direction. He asks about it, and Bear explains that it goes in a circle around the city. This keeps enemies out, and it also locks people in. The sight of the vast wall, and the tall buildings beyond it, stuns Crispin into silence for a while. He has never imagined that a place so big exists, and it is hard for him to accept it even now.
Crispin and Bear near the gates, and the crowd grows thick. At first, Crispin does not understand why. He sees black cloth over the entryway, and then he spots groups of soldiers waiting at the gates, admitting travelers to the city in twos and threes. Inexperienced as he is, Crispin knows at once that those guards are looking for someone.