Chapter 34 Summary
Bear tells Crispin not to act nervous as they approach the gate. If they look guilty, the guards will pay more attention to them. Although this makes sense, Crispin cannot quell his worry. Bear thinks a moment and then tells Crispin to play his flute. This sounds crazy to the boy, who knows that music will attract attention. However, he obeys, playing music while Bear dances. People all around them—including the soldiers—stop to laugh and clap at the performance. Because Crispin and Bear are so bold, the soldiers assume them to be harmless. They get to enter the city without submitting to searches or questioning.
Inside Great Wexly, Crispin stares in amazement. In his whole life together, he has never seen so many different people. The city is a riot of sights and noise. People laugh, joke, and sell their wares. The streets are so packed, it is impossible to walk straight. Bear leads the way, weaving through the crowd. Most people do not even bother to look at passing strangers.
The city is also full of smells—mostly bad ones from unwashed bodies, emptied chamber pots, animal manure, and rotting food. The road is stone, and its wide gutter is full of dirty water, human waste, and garbage. Rather than carrying this waste out of town, people simply toss it out their doors and windows. More than once, Crispin sees an unfortunate passerby doused with muck thrown from a house.
The buildings in Great Wexly are larger than any Crispin has ever seen—two and three stories high. Many are draped with black cloth. Bear says that this is because “someone important has died.” He does not explain further.
The lower floors of most buildings on the street are shops which do business through their front windows. Crispin soon realizes that the pictures on the shops’ signs—fish, wheat, jackets—convey information about what is sold inside. The rooms above the shops do not seem to be stores. Rather, those areas provide living space for the shopkeepers and their families.
Crispin is so excited by everything he sees that he keeps wandering off. Bear repeatedly grabs him and drags him back in the direction they are trying to go. Eventually they come to a building with a green straw man hanging above the entrance. Bear says that this is the Green Man tavern, where they are going to stay. Crispin’s excitement dwindles because now he remembers that Bear’s business in Great Wexly is dangerous.