The second chapter of The Confidence Man: His Masquerade maintains the enigmatic character of the first. There is a commotion on a nearby balcony regarding another passenger which the narrator or reader cannot make much sense of; the narrator prefers to wax poetically about the Mississippi river and the humans who people it. The voyage of the Fidéle takes it from “apples to oranges” on 1200 mile trek. Passengers board and disembark without much ceremony or fanfare, replacing the strange with the even more strange.
Though the mute in the cream-colored suit of the first chapter garnered some attention with his scriptural side-show, in the second chapter he seems glad of oblivion, “a boon not often withheld from so humble an applicant as he” (5). The staring crowds onshore recede in dim clusters, and we are left with the strange universe of the riverboat:
By-and-by—two or three random stoppages having been made, and the last transient memory of the slumberer vanished, and he himself, not unlikely, waked up and landed ere now—the crowd, as is usual, began in all parts to break up from a concourse into various clusters and squads, which in some cases disintegrated again into quartettes, trios, and couples or even solitaires; involuntarily submitting to that natural law which ordains dissolution equally to the mass, as in time to the member. (6)
I find it interesting that the crowd (audience) of the scenes unfolding in the book get smaller and smaller until they resolve themselves into little dialectics; after the third chapter, there are no major assemblies that I recall. But in the first three chapters, there is a motley assortment of spectators gawking over one spectacle or another. In the first, it is a deaf mute preaching Corinthians 1:13 on a slate. In the second chapter, it is the scenery of both the riverbank and the crowd. The crowd are depicted as pilgrims, settlers, and theoroi: