Study Guide

Dune Book I, Chapter 16

By Frank Herbert

Book I, Chapter 16

  • Leto prepares for a banquet being thrown by Lady Jessica. He notices basins of water and remembers the Harkonnen tradition of washing one's hands so the water slops to the floor. The floor water is then mopped up and sold to beggars outside.
  • He decides the weaksauce custom must stop here. He finds a serving girl and tells her from the time dinner starts to the time it stops anyone seeking water may receive a full cup's worth.
  • In the hall, Leto spies Jessica wearing her favorite colors, perhaps punishing him for his current coldness. He also notices girls fawning over Paul. Paul's evenhanded approach to the attention makes Leto think his son will become a good duke.
  • Leto takes a little flak from some of the guests for changing their custom, but he says it's been changed and that is that. Feel free to insert your own "no use crying over spilt water" joke here.
  • Lingar Bewt, a watershipper, asks Leto what the plans are for the newly discovered conservatory. Jessica answers it will be preserved in the name of the people of Arrakis, so one day perhaps the planets could spread throughout Arrakis.
  • Kynes is present, transfixed by Jessica, wondering if she's the holy mother.
  • As the guests enter the dining hall, Leto notices a new addition. He's Esmar Tuek, a smuggler with lots of power.
  • Jessica secretly hopes Leto will realize that the smuggler owns fast ships and that he can be bribed should they need to make a haste exit from Arrakis.
  • Leto opens with a toast: "Business makes progress! Fortune passes everywhere" (16.93). Despite the toast, he's clearly angry, and the houseguests pick up some seriously heinous vibes.
  • Dinner, as they say, is served. As the guests eat, the banker starts a conversation around the carryall—probably the wrong choice of subject matter given Leto's current level of peevishness.
  • Using her keen Bene Gesserit insight, Jessica realizes the banker is a Harkonnen agent.
  • The banker changes conversation to the birds of Arrakis, noting that they are blood drinkers and flesh eaters. You know, just casual dinner talk.
  • Paul prods the man by asking if they are cannibals (slyly hinting that the banker may be willing to kill his own kind for his benefit).
  • Kynes backs Paul's line of questioning, and this vexes the banker, who mentions the rumor that the Fremen drink their own blood.
  • Kynes points out that the custom is to take the water from the body and share it with the tribe. Not like the dead guy is going to miss the water.
  • The banker claims Kynes has lost his sensibility because of his association with the Fremen. Kynes wonders if the man is challenging him, and after a tense standoff, the banker backs down.
  • The conversation moves away from death and toward making Arrakis more habitable for human life (can it produce more water?). Kynes remains secretive, because we need some surprises for the second act. Yet he believes it is possible.
  • Bewt disagrees, saying Kynes dreams with the Fremen about messiahs and whatnot.
  • Leto is called away from the table on urgent business, and Paul takes over the hosting duties.
  • Our new host recounts the tale of a man he once saw drowned in the sea. He had claw marks on his back. When he asked about the marks, Paul learned that another man had tried to stand on his drowning companion to save his own life.
  • The banker asks why Paul chose to recount such a tale. Paul answers that his father said a man who'd climb on the shoulders of a drowning man is understandable, except when it happens in the drawing room (i.e. politics).
  • The banker feels Paul is calling him out for being a double-crosser (which he is), but Kynes and Tuek run interference on the verbal play.
  • The banker apologizes for his temper, claiming he had too much to drink. Ah, the patented "I am a lush" defense. Well played, sir.
  • Jessica returns the conversation to Arrakis. Kynes mentions that few enter the south desert, but there is rumor of a huge spice reserve called the Mother Lode there. Those who do venture forth are—you guessed it—never heard from again.
  • Leto sends his reassurances back to the dinner party that all is well.
  • The message also informs that the carryall was found. Seems a Harkonnen spy had hijacked the machine and attempted to sell it. The situation has been, shall we say, dealt with.
  • Paul commends his father for being able to solve any problem when he puts his mind to it. Jessica feels the young boy shouldn't boast. They are still in far too much danger.