Tara arrives at the hotel and asks for the man in the grey suit at the front desk but the concierge tells her that there is no such guest. Confused, she wanders through the lobby where the man in the grey suit comes to meet her. She tries to explain her concerns about the circus, but the man in the grey suit tells her that the circus is nothing more than a circus. He escorts her to the train station where the man in the grey suit suggests Tara find something to get her mind off the circus. Tara can’t recall certain aspects of their conversation and doesn’t remember what she’s doing at the station. She sees the man in the grey suit on the opposite side of the platform having an argument with someone she cannot see. When she realizes the person is an apparition, she takes a step forward and unknowingly steps into the path of an oncoming train.
Celia visits Herr Thiessen when the circus is outside of Munich. They have been exchanging letters for many years, but Herr Thiessen is surprised when he sees that Celia is the illusionist. He asks why she wrote him in the first place and she admits that, because of her relationship to the circus, she can’t see it for what it is. She likes being able to see it through Herr Thiessen’s eyes. Over dinner, Celia asks why he hasn’t asked her how she does her tricks. He tells her he feels he can better appreciate them by not knowing the secret. After the show, they walk arm in arm through the circus and meet again every night that it is near Munich.
In Loving Memory of Tara Burgess
Tara Burgess’s funeral is well attended and unusually lighthearted and bright. Lainie gives a eulogy in which she asserts that she does not mourn her sister for she is always in her heart. Tsukiko initiates a conversation that troubles Isobel about how the people in the circus don’t change and that Tara is the first of them to die. Tsukiko believes there’s a possibility that Tara stepped in front of the train on purpose because the truth of the circus may have driven her mad. Tsukiko asks if Isobel is still tempering the circus. Isobel tells her that she is but that she doesn’t believe it is working.
The narrator uses the second person point of view to describe the Labyrinth tent, which contains numerous rooms and unusual architecture. Behind one of six identical doors, there is a forest of bright white coniferous trees which are difficult to navigate. There is the sound of a woman’s laugh, but no one is there.
After exiting the fortune-teller’s tent, Bailey sees Poppet performing. Poppet notices Bailey in the crowd and comes to meet him when her show concludes. She greets him by name and introduces herself as Poppet and the boy she performed with as her brother, Widget. Poppet and Widget invite Bailey to walk around the circus with them, which he eagerly accepts.
Poppet admits that she can see the future in the stars when Bailey asks how she knows his name. They visit the stargazer tent and the Cloud Maze where Bailey and Poppet spend time alone together. When it’s time for him to leave, Poppet gives him a special ticket that gives him free unlimited admission to the circus. Bailey tells her that he’ll be back the following night and she kisses him on the cheek.
Marco asks Celia to stay and have a drink with him after a Midnight Dinner. Marco gives Celia a private tour of the house while they talk about their challenge. Their conversation wanders to many topics about the difficulties they’ve faced. When Celia explains the way that her father used magic to ensnare her mother’s heart, Marco drops the enchantment that he uses to change his appearance. Celia and Marco spend time demonstrating their magic to one another using a deck of cards. In the opulent parlor, they spread out on pillows and speak of the circus, revealing some of the secrets they built into it and sharing their favorite attractions. When they touch, it sends a powerful surge of energy between them. Marco focuses their energies together and takes Celia’s hand so it is less jarring when they touch. They only part when the clock chimes and Celia returns to the circus.
Tara Burgess’s listless behavior when she returns to London suggests that she has become depressed or paranoid and it is strongly implied that this is because of the circus. Changes were evident in Tara’s behavior earlier on in the novel, with Celia noticing her acting strangely at the Circus Dinner in “Atmosphere” and her conversation with Mr. Barris in “The Ticking of the Clock” revolving around how out of sorts she has been. In “Temporary Places,” Tara’s refusal of her beloved sister’s invitations couple with the fact her home has been left in a disarray implies her mental state is fracturing. Tara even turns her mirrors around, a behavior deeply steeped in superstitions, though her precise reasoning isn’t made clear. What is clear is that Tara’s behavior has changed profoundly since the circus started touring and it only seems to get worse by the time of her death. Tsukiko even speculates that Tara’s death is a suicide, implying the truth of the circus might have driven her mad. While this isn’t the case, Tsukiko’s observation does suggest that the change Tara experiences isn’t something that is limited just to her.
In his conversation with Tara Burgess, the man in the grey suit deploys a kind of magical manipulation that reveals how much control he has over the people around him. When Tara explains her concerns about the circus to him in “Temporary Places,” he asks her leading questions that confuse and compel her to answer in a certain way that reveal his powers of manipulation. In an ominous moment of manipulation, he plants the idea of her needing to catch a train, which she immediately complies with as if it were her idea all along. As a result, Tara is befuddled and distracted enough to accidentally step in front of the train, causing her death. The revelation that the man in the grey suit’s questions warp people’s will casts an alarming new light on the conversation he had earlier in the novel with eight-year-old Marco when he asked if Marco wanted to remain at the orphanage. The extent of the man in the grey’s suit’s powers of manipulation coupled with Tara’s death creates a sinister and foreboding tone over the entire circus.
“Ailuromancy” establishes the relationship between Bailey, Poppet, and Widget. While he has known her as the “red-haired girl” up until this point, Bailey finally comes to learn who Poppet really is and she’s not shy about revealing the fact that she can see the future to him. Bailey has an instant camaraderie with Widget and the three fall into an easy evening of conversation and fun as they explore the circus. This ease takes Bailey by surprise as he observes how invested the other two are in their conversation with him over cups of hot cocoa. In this way, the first night Bailey spends at the circus sets the tone for the kinds of relationships that he has always dreamed about.
“Movement” reveals that Celia’s correspondence with Herr Thiessen has become a profoundly important friendship to them both, so much so that during the circus’s stop near Munich, Celia decides to visit Herr Thiessen in person for the first time, confirming her identity as one of the performers in the circus. While touring his workshop, she even performs real magic in front of him by fixing one of his clocks, which is something she has never openly done before. That Herr Thiessen is one of the rare people who prefers the magical feeling of not understanding how Celia performs her illusions is both ironic and heartwarming. Herr Thiessen’s sincerity both embodies the spirit of the rêveurs and is what allows him to develop a genuine friendship with Celia. The relationship also offers Celia a rare sanctuary in that she can truly be herself without having to discuss the darker aspects of the circus and its impact on her life.
Celia and Marco demonstrating their powers to one another in Chandresh’s game room serves as a reminder of the challenge that has brought them together. Games are a profoundly important element in the novel because of the game being played between Marco and Celia, so any time they come up, it provides a vital reminder that the challenge is still operating in the background. Heavy with symbolism of the unfinished games that surround them in the room, the pair continues their conversation about each other and their magic. That the walls are also lined with weapons that are intentionally poised to cross in pairs, imitating the starting positions of a duel, further underscores the symbolic reminder of their challenge in the room. While Marco and Celia are eager to share demonstrations of their skills and accounts of their training with one another, the scene itself conspires to remind them of the true nature of their relationship: they are in a game and there must be a victor.