The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

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Part 2, Chapters 4-5 Summary

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The story jumps forward again to 1902 in Concord, Massachusetts, where Bailey is preparing to go to the circus. Although the thought of the performers in the circus tents excites him, Bailey’s primary goal is to find the red-haired girl who gave him the white glove when he was ten and snuck into the circus. He thinks he is acting silly and doubts that she would remember him. He also wonders if he would recognize her after five long years.

As Bailey wanders around the maze of tents, trying to decide which act to see, he sees a female contortionist who is performing on a small stage outside one of the tents. The most impressive part of this woman’s act is when she bends and twists her body into a small, glass case, not much more than a foot high and wide. Even though Bailey has an unobstructed view of the stage, he cannot believe what he is seeing. The woman’s movements are slow and meticulous, and she looks as if she were folding her body into the case. In the end, only one hand remains unenclosed. At this point, the woman waves to her audience and then pulls the lid closed.

Bailey watches as white smoke begins to fill the once-transparent box. When the smoke completely obscures the body of the contortionist inside the box, the glass side panels fold down with a popping sound, disclosing that the woman is no longer there. Bailey is more than impressed with this amazing feat.

The next act Bailey watches is inside the tent marked with a sign that reads, Feats of Illustrious Illusion. As Bailey waits inside for the performance to begin, one of the seats across from him bursts into flames. Some of the members of the audience panic and run for the exit—but the door through which they came in is now missing. At this moment, the woman who had been sitting next to Bailey rises from her chair, takes off her coat, and flings it at the burning chair. As the coat flies across the tent, it is transformed into a long, trailing piece of black silk that hovers over the flames and extinguishes them.

Throughout the act, the illusionist performs many other curious transformations that include changing a patron’s gold watch to sand and levitating all the chairs (with the audience still sitting in them) a few inches off the ground. At the end, the illusionist (Celia) slowly turns as she bows, acknowledging all the members sitting in the audience. When she completes her final bow, she suddenly disappears.

The next chapter covers the time from 1887 until 1889. Marco has grown frustrated with his mentor and the whole idea of the challenge. For a whole year he has not seen his mentor (who is referred to as either Mr. A. H., as Alexander, or as the man in the gray suit). Mr. A. H. has left no phone number or address, so Marco decides to writes the letter A plus some magical symbols in the frost that has collected on one of the windows in his apartment. The next day, Mr. A. H. appears. Marco has many questions but his mentor provides little information. He tells Marco that there is no need for him to understand any rules of the challenge. He should merely perform until a winner is declared.

Over at the circus, Celia is admiring the carousel, whose construction she inspired and enhanced. Her father appears behind her and informs her that she has been wasting her time and effort. Celia collaborated with Mr....

(This entire section contains 821 words.)

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Barris in creating the carousel, stretching his ideas into the realm of magic. Hector disapproves of working with another person. He believes the collaboration weakens Celia’s powers, or at least distracts her. When Celia asks her father to further explain the rules of the competition or to tell her who her opponent is, Hector refuses. He tells her that all she needs to do is to push the boundaries of her powers so she eventually outshines the skills of her opponent, whomever he or she might be.

Although Isobel continues to write letters to Marco as the circus travels around the world, Marco craves more information about Celia. But he hesitates asking for more details from Isobel; he does not want to make his desire so obvious. Then one day Isobel surprises him by showing up at his door. Marco does not allow her into his apartment, but he joins her for a walk. While they are strolling along the streets of London, Marco notices a bracelet on Isobel’s wrist. He asks her about it, but she quickly conceals it with the sleeve of her blouse. She has made the bracelet by braiding together strands of her hair and his. Later, when Isobel parts from Marco, she feels for the bracelet but finds that it has disappeared.

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Part 2, Chapters 1-3 Summary

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Part 2, Chapters 6-8 Summary