Chapter 20 Summary

When Jacob wakes up, Marlena is not there. She has gone to see Uncle Al; Earl escorted her. At Car 48, August must leave while Marlena packs her things. August looks as terrible as Jacob does—both men have beaten each other badly. But August will not quietly let Marlena leave the car. He begs and pleads with her to stay, promising that he will never behave violently again. He is on his knees, and he takes a ring out of his pocket and tries to slip it on Marlena’s finger. She simply walks past his show. August reminds Marlena of her vows, but she continues to march across the grass. Marlena gives Jacob her suitcase, and they go into town to find her a room at a hotel. The hotel clerk takes one look at their bruises and does not want to rent the room to them, claiming that the hotel does not rent to unmarried couples. A customer recognizes Marlena from the circus, and the clerk changes his mind, but the two go to a hotel three doors down and receive a room without a problem. Jacob leaves Marlena there and returns to the circus grounds, where he goes directly to the menagerie.

Uncle Al sends for Jacob so he can persuade Jacob to convince Marlena to make amends with August. Uncle Al says he cannot afford to lose either August or Marlena from the circus. He then asks Jacob if the rumors of the affair are true, and Jacob firmly says they are not. Uncle Al agrees to work on August if Jacob will work on Marlena. Uncle Al tries to convince Jacob that August is ill and suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, but Jacob cannot get around the fact that August hit Marlena. Jacob threatens to leave the circus, but Uncle Al reminds him of Walter and reveals that he knows that the two have been hiding Camel in the ring stock car. Uncle Al says that sometimes one has to make a sacrifice for the greater good, and Jacob knows he is being blackmailed.

Jacob leaves the car and goes to see Rosie. As Jacob is filing Rosie’s toenails, August approaches him and tries to apologize for his behavior. He wants to know where Marlena has gone, but Jacob remains silent. August goes from hotel to hotel in search of his wife. Jacob fears what August might do if he finds Marlena, so he follows him into town. Jacob goes to Marlena’s hotel, and after much sidestepping from the clerk who is trying to protect Marlena, he is allowed up to her room. August has been there, but the clerk turned him away. Marlena tells Jacob that she learned about August’s violent tendencies early in their marriage but this is the first time he ever hit her. She asks Jacob to stay with her, and the two make love. Jacob does not want to break the spell.