The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

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Part 1, Chapters 10-11 Summary

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Time jumps forward to 1897. Ten-year-old Bailey is playing Truth or Dare with his sister, Caroline. Bailey chooses a dare. Caroline dares Bailey to go to the circus, which came to town a couple of days before, and steal something to prove he got in. It is in the middle of the afternoon, and Bailey knows the circus is not yet open. He will have to break in. Bailey agrees to do it.

The gate at the entrance of the circus is locked, and there is a tall iron fence around the tents—too high for Bailey to climb. He walks around the perimeter, hoping to find a way in. At the back, he notices that the space between two of the iron bars is large enough for him to squeeze through.

Once inside, he realizes that the environment appears different to him. For instance, it is quieter. He does not even hear birds singing. He also sees that the ground has been painted white in some areas and black in others, and all the tents have strange signs. The one that reads Fearsome Beasts & Strange Creatures makes Bailey shudder. He is so absorbed by his surroundings that he nearly walks right into a young girl, who seems to be near his own age. She tells him, in a friendly voice, that he is not supposed to be there. Then she suggests that he leave before anyone else sees him, and she helps him find a way out. As soon as they make it back to the iron fence, Bailey squeezes through the space between the bars. Before he leaves, though, he tells the girl about the dare his sister has imposed. He says he needs to bring something back to prove he got in. The girl takes off a white glove she had been wearing and gives it to him. Bailey is reluctant to take something so personal and precious, but the young girl insists that she has a whole box full of gloves. They part without telling one another their names.

The story then moves back to 1885. Chandresh Lefevre is hosting a midnight dinner at his house. At this dinner, several minor characters are introduced. Ana Padva is a retired Romanian prima ballerina whom Lefevre calls Tante Padva. He has known her since childhood. Ethan Barris, an engineer and architect, has also been invited, as have Tara and Lainie Burgess. The Burgess sisters are known for their highly developed skills of observation. The last guest is Alexander, Marco’s mentor.

After dinner, Lefevre announces his reason for inviting these specially selected dinner guests. He has begun a new endeavor, he tells them, and he needs their help. He wants to create a very special circus unlike any other circus ever put together. As Lefevre explains his circus in vague terms, the guests’ creativity is stirred, and they spend the rest of the night collaborating on fantastic plans.

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Part 1, Chapters 7-9 Summary

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Part 1, Chapters 12-14 Summary