Water for Elephants Chapter 18 Summary
by Sara Gruen

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Chapter 18 Summary

Marlena descends from Rosie’s head, and August says the pair was absolutely brilliant in the ring. He reminds Marlena that she must also perform with the horses. As he walks away, Marlena puts her hand on Jacob’s elbow before asking him for a favor—but she has not noticed that August has seen her gesture. She asks Jacob to bring Rosie to her dressing tent because she has a surprise for them all. On his way to the tent, Jacob meets up with Grady and Bill, and the men chat about Walter’s brusque character and the stream of money now coming into the circus.

When Jacob gets to Marlena’s tent, he sees a pile of watermelons—Rosie’s favorite food—in the corner. He gives one to Rosie to calm her desire to get at the pile. Marlena appears wearing a fancy dress and the diamond choker, and there are silver-domed platters on a serving table in the tent. She takes out a bottle of champagne and tells Jacob to open it the second August arrives. But the two are laughing when August arrives, and Jacob is late to pop the cork. August is angry, and he insinuates that Jacob and Marlena have been having affair. Marlena tells him he is wrong, but August does not believe her. He is enraged. August grabs the silver-tipped cane, and Rosie is so afraid that she urinates where she is standing. He swipes the cane across the serving table, and all the platters crash to the ground. He picks up Rosie’s headpiece and tears it, claiming that Marlena has lied to him about spending her free time working on the sewing. Marlena tries to approach August, but he shoves her, knocking her down. Jacob immediately tackles August, and the two pound on each other in turn. Grady and Bill hear the racket, and they pull Jacob off August. Earl rushes into the tent, and after two soft thuds, the crashing in the tent stops.

Jacob goes back to his car, and Walter nurses his wounds. Walter then takes out a knife and keeps it at his side as the train departs. Later there are footsteps on the roof, and Walter moves to the door. It is Marlena, and Walter screams that he could have killed her. Her left eye is swollen and discolored. Jacob and Marlena move into the car with the horses, and Marlena confesses that she is leaving August. She plans to ask Uncle Al for a bunk in the girls’ sleeper car. Marlena falls asleep with her head resting on Jacob’s shoulder, and he feels very aware of how close she is to him.