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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Charles Halloway leaves the saloon, but as he does, a premonition seems to overtake him. He seems to believe that the premonition could have been caused by a number of things, but he settles on the idea that it was caused by a man he saw hanging posters as he was in the saloon. The man was in a dark suit. He had paper in one hand and a bucket of paste in another. As he brushed the paste, he whistled a Christmas tune. Halloway shivers at the emotional baggage of the tune.
As Halloway leaves the saloon, the whistling man begins working silently, and he vanishes into an empty shop with his work. Halloway follows him, watching his work. As Halloway arrives at the other side of the street, the mysterious man steps out of the shop entrance and gestures to Halloway. Halloway notices that the man's palm is covered with "fine, black silken hair." The man departs, leaving Halloway to stare into the window of the empty shop where two sawhorses stand next to each other, with a block of ice, six feet long resting on them. One side of the window displays a placard that tells of a show. The placard suggests the block of ice is one of the many attractions: the most beautiful woman in the world.
The text allows Halloway to travel back in his memories, harkening back to the traveling magicians' shows of his childhood. He dismisses the thought, thinking the ice is simply frozen river water, but at a glance, he allows himself to believe she (the most beautiful woman in the world) exists in the ice. He wants to leave, but his curiosity forces him to stare at the block of ice in the window for some time.
Halloway's premonitions, capped by the strange man whistling a tune that saddens Halloway, furthers the sense of foreboding the novel has already created. The whistled tune, Longfellow’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” was written in 1864 during the American Civil War. It reflects the despair and hopelessness brought about by the war. It creates sadness in Halloway. The block of ice between the sawhorses boosts the sense of lost youth. He desperately wants to believe the lost mermaid of the magic shows of his youth lies within that block of ice, but his conscience tells him she does not exist. Despite the warning, however, Halloway stares at the mysterious ice for some time.
Jim abruptly stops at the corner of Hickory and Main. He glances down Hickory Street, and as Will stops beside him, Jim begs to stop at the fifth house down the street for a minute. Will glances down the street.
During the course of the past summer, the boys discovered a bedroom window with the shade up. The boys refer to the room as the "theater," where the "actors," the residents of the home, whisper things Will doesn't understand. Jim, though, is fascinated with the residents.
As the boys stand at the corner, Jim begs Will to head toward the theater. He recalls the evening they discovered the exhibition. They were picking apples high in a tree when Jim glanced through the window. He caught Will's attention, and they looked through the window. The residents of the house were engaging in sexual foreplay. Will, fearful and queasy, wondered what the residents were doing. When he could watch no more, he dropped from the tree. Jim continued to watch, spellbound with the forbidden activities.
Jim continues to beg Will to go peek at the window. He finally hands Will his library books, and leaves toward the "theater." As he leaves Will, he calls him a "darn old dimwit Episcopal Baptist." Will clutches the library books tightly and walks quickly toward home.
This chapter furthers the ever growing difference between Jim and Will. Will is both confused and frightened by maturity in all forms, particularly the sexual maturity he notices through the window. Jim, though, is fascinated. He both wants and needs to know everything possible about growing up. Will wants little to do with anything that violates his childhood precedents. Jim is continually begging Will to taste maturity with him, and when he refuses, Jim is quick to anger - an emotion that seems to frighten Will. This is also the first time we see religion insulted. Religion is quickly insulted throughout the novel by characters engaged in undesirable and evil behaviors.