The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

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Part 1, Chapters 12-14 Summary

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It is now 1885, and newspapers have reported that Celia’s father has died. Hector is still alive, but a failed trick has left parts of him invisible and the rest of him transparent. However, in the collection of cards of condolence, Celia finds one that is markedly different from all the others. There is no message of sympathy. There is no signature. The message simply reads, “Your move.” Celia is at a loss to make sense of the card or its message, so she takes it to her father. When Hector reads the card, he bursts out laughing.

In London, meanwhile, the midnight dinners at Chandresh Lefevre’s house continue. The principle attendees have been meeting once a month. They have come to call their gatherings the Circus Dinners because they elaborate more fully on their plans after each dinner.

At this particular dinner, an uninvited guest appears. Her name is Tsukiko, and she is a contortionist. She is extremely limber and can put her body into positions the other guests had previously considered physically impossible. Chandresh appears to know Tsukiko, though he is surprised that she is there. As Tsukiko exhibits her skills, Chandresh exclaims that Tsukiko is exactly what he has been talking about as far as the calibre of performer he wants at the circus.

The scene changes to Munich, Germany. Mr. Barris, the architect who is one of the regular participants at the Circus Dinners, is meeting with Friedrick Thiessen, a clock maker. Barris asks if Thiessen is interested in accepting a commission to create a very special piece. Thiessen, whose schedule is full with commissions from other customers who pay him for traditional cuckoo clocks, is not impressed with Mr. Barris’s offer until Barris adds that what he is looking for is something “truly outstanding,” and money is not a concern. The clock will be the centerpiece of a circus, Barris adds. The only instructions that Barris gives Thiessen are that the clock should be large, painted only in black and white, and appear dreamlike.

After a few months of design and work, the clock is complete. The first thing one would notice about this clock is that it is constantly changing colors from white to gray to black. The body of the clock is decorated with intricately carved pieces such as flowers, planets, and books with actual paper pages. There is also a silver dragon, a tiny princess in a tower, and teapots that pour into cups. Cats chase dogs and a game of chess is played on a chessboard as the clock counts out the minutes and hours.

After it is shipped to London, Thiessen receives a note of gratitude from Mr. Barris, who writes that the clock is perfect. Included in this envelope is a check with enough money that Thiessen could retire immediately if he so desired.

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Part 1, Chapters 10-11 Summary

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Part 1, Chapters 15-17 Summary