Cyrano de Bergerac


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Edmond Rostand

Chapter 22

The mob calls for the blood of Sherburn and Sherburn appears on the roof of his porch, calm and collected as ever, armed with a shotgun. He eyes the mob passively and no one is able to meet his stare and hold it. He tells the mob that they won’t dare lynch him in daylight, because there is not a man among them. He informs them that the best they have is half a man—Buck Harkness—whose idea it probably was to come lynch him. He says the problem with these people is that they think they are braver than they really are—but that they really are only cowards. He tells them they better disperse because he is a man and that they have not brought a man to challenge him, so they had either best find one and bring him back, or sneak up on him at night wearing their masks like the cowards he knows they are. The crowd slinks back and sulks away.

Huck sneaks into the circus and tent and thoroughly enjoys himself, calling it the best circus he has ever seen. One particular incident that he relates is when a drunken man runs into the ring and tries to ride the horses. Everyone tries to get him to leave, but he will not so, finally, the ringmaster shrugs and lets him try—and at first it appears that the poor man will be trampled, but gradually he begins to show his mastery and skill and before long he has revealed himself as one of the performers, much to everyone’s amusement. Huck admires these antics and then heads off for the duke and king’s show.

Their show, however, is a bust: only about a dozen townsfolk attend and they laugh at the performances, which insults the duke. The next day he writes on wrapping paper with black paint bills for a new show: “The Royal Nonesuch,” and in big letters states that women and children are not admitted. Then the duke declares that if that line alone does not bring them in, he does not know Arkansas.

In this chapter, Huck witnesses two acts: the first, the deadly serious performance of a man—Colonel Sherburn vs. the mob; the second, the hilarious antics of the circus performers. Both are polar opposites of one another but both make a lasting impression on Huck, and leave him with much food for meditation concerning the extremes of human behavior.

Chapter 23

“The Royal Nonesuch” consists of the king crawling around like mad on all fours, stark naked and painted all over in different colors. The large crowd laughs hysterically and calls out for the fool to do it again and again. Then the curtain falls and the duke thanks the gentlemen for coming. The crowd is angry that this is all the show consists and almost storms the stage, but a man convinces them to hold off and allow the rest of the town and chance to be “sold” as well, which they crowd agrees to do. Finally, on the third night, the whole town shows up and pays their admission, but Huck sees that they are all carrying rotten vegetables and dead cats to sling at the acting duo.

However, the duke tells Huck to run along to the raft, where he finds the king already in hiding and the duke not far behind. The crowd never gets its chance to strike back and the pair makes nearly $500.

Huck then discusses the merits of kings with Jim and pronounces that all kings are always bad, and that these two are mild in comparison to types like Henry VIII. The Huck goes to sleep and when he wakes he sees that Jim has once again failed to rouse him for his watch, but has taken it on himself. Huck sees that Jim has fallen asleep, and that his sleep is restless. Huck wakes Jim and asks him what his trouble is, and Jim admits that he misses his family and tells the story of the time he shouted at his daughter ‘Lizabeth to shut the door, and how beat her, and only then realized that she was deaf and that it was not her fault that she did not obey—for she never could hear.

In this chapter, Jim is revealed to have more humanity than the two frauds who call themselves king and duke—and even more humanity than the townsfolk who call themselves civilized. Jim at least expresses sorrow and remorse for his misdeeds, but Huck sees no such sign in anyone else he meets during his stay in the Arkansas town.

Chapter 24

As the group continues on, Jim complains that he does not like being tied up while everyone is in town. The duke says he will think of new way to allow Jim to stay on the raft without being bothered. He paints Jim blue and puts him in the robes that go with the King Lear role and makes a sign that reads, “Sick Arab.” Then the duke, king, and Huck set off and Jim is contented.

The king buys himself a set of new clothes and looks much improved and somewhat like a preacher. While he and Huck are traveling, they pass an outward bound traveler who tells the king the latest incidents of the town (after mistaking the king for the long lost Wilks brother). The king gets the idea to play this Wilks brother and steal the inheritance that is offered him in town. He fetches the duke, who must play his deaf and dumb younger brother.

Huck is disgusted by the whole affair and especially by the way the townsfolk faun over the two imposters, accepting them without question and falling gullibly for their lies. Huck states quite plainly that he is “ashamed of the human race.”

In this chapter, Twain illustrates the absolute rapacity of the king and the duke as they thirst for bigger and bigger conquests. On the other hand, he contrasts their greed with the humility of Huck, who has suffered these two about just as much as he can stand.

Chapter 25

The king and the duke make a grand entrance, and the king displays his knowledge of some of the more intimate details of the town (thanks to the fool he tapped for information). Even the three daughters of the late Mr. Wilks are impressed and happy that their “English relations” have finally arrived. After making a few speeches and weeping greatly at the sight of their dead “brother,” they are offered the opportunity to immediately get down to business, an opportunity they seize upon. Off they go to count the gold left them in the will. They find that whereas the will has left them $6000, the actual haul is some $400 short. So they throw in their earnings from the “Royal Nonesuch” so as not to raise any questions or draw more attention than is necessary. Then they conceive of the idea to offer the gold to their “nieces” as a gesture of good will—which they believe will chase away any and all suspicion.

Indeed, the pair does convince everyone in the town of their authenticity—everyone that is except the doctor, who calls them both frauds to their face and begs the three daughters of the late Mr. Wilks to throw them out. The duke is made nervous by the doctor’s accusations (as well as by the king’s incorrect usage of words, like “orgies” for “obsequies”), but the king keeps his cool and retains the majority of the crowd’s favor and the favor of the Wilks' daughters too.

In this chapter, Huck truly begins to see the depths to which the two con artists are willing to sink. He is struck by the beauty of the oldest Wilks daughter, Mary Jane, and as the con goes on, Huck’s conscience will once more get the better of him.

Chapter 26

Mary Jane shows the con men and Huck to their rooms and later Huck is grilled by the youngest daughter, Jo, whom Huck refers to as “the harelip.” She asks him all sorts of questions about England, and accuses him of not telling the truth. When her older sisters enter, they find her inhospitality to be rude, rebuke her, and tell her to apologize to Huck—which she does. Huck decides there and then that he cannot let the two scoundrels swindle these sweet girls out of their money.

To prevent the king and the duke from sneaking off with the gold, Huck decides to sneak off with it first. He looks around the king’s room, and hides behind the curtain where Mary Jane’s frocks are kept and sees the two put the gold in the bed mattress. He also overhears the duke state that he would prefer to leave right away—in fact, in the middle of the night while the getting is good. The king, however, insists that they stick around and sell off all the property as well. The duke grumbles but gives in.

When they leave, Huck retrieves the gold from the mattress and takes it to his room. There he waits until he is certain the king and the house are asleep, and then he creeps out to put the gold somewhere safer.

In this chapter, Huck begins to act with great care and responsibility—taking upon himself the mission of securing the girls’ wealth and foiling the scheme of the duke and the king, without letting on to anyone about his plans. He is stealthy, clever, quick—and, of course, very nervous.

Chapter 27

However, Huck cannot get out the front door because it is locked. At the sound of footsteps, Huck panics and sees that the only place to hide the gold is in the coffin of Mr. Wilks, which is half open. He dumps the bag inside with the body and hides behind the door. Mary Jane enters and keeps a vigil over the body of her dead father, and Huck returns to his room with a heavy heart.

In the morning the coffin is closed, and Huck does not know whether the gold is still inside. Nonetheless, the body is buried. Meanwhile, a couple of slave traders happen by and the king separates the slaves and sells them off, breaking up the families as he does so. Everyone is much aggrieved by this action, especially the daughters.

Afterwards, the king and the duke discover their gold to be missing. Huck announces that he saw the slaves acting suspiciously around their room and the two presume that the slaves indeed stole it. Huck is glad that he is able to shift the blame to them and that they are not hurt by it since they are already gone.

In this chapter, the tension between the king, the duke, Huck, and the rest of the house and town begins to mount. The true character of the men is now plain as day to Huck, and even the townsfolk are becoming upset by the way they are so quickly executing their plans.

Chapter 28

When Huck visits with Mary Jane later that day, he sees that she is still saddened by the selling of the slaves. Huck tries to cheer her up by telling her that the sale, ultimately, will not go through. She immediately wants to know how—and he makes her promise not to do anything about what he is going to say and then confesses that the two men are crooked. His concern is for Jim and for his own hide, and he tells Mary Jane to visit some friends and stay out of the way and not tell anyone until he has had the chance to sneak safely away. He reckons that by 11 o’clock that evening it will be safe enough for him and tells her that is when she can make her move. He then writes, “Royal Nonesuch, Bricksville” on a scrap of paper and tells her that she can use that to convict the two frauds, since there are people in that town who will recognize them for who and what they are.

The king proceeds with the auction—but towards the end of it, another pair of Wilks brothers arrive, and an “opposition line” is formed to that of the duke and the king.

In this chapter, Twain illustrates Huck’s care for the girls as well as his care for Jim and his safety. Huck shows that he wants to be rid of the two con men once and for all, and that he would like to see them jailed so that he and Jim are free to continue on their course. His plan is quickly thought out, but it is the safest way he can devise to see that the two frauds are caught and that he is able to escape safely and soundly with Jim.

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