Chapter 5 Summary

One morning, Bod wakes up in the Owens's tomb and hears Mrs. Owens singing a strange song. She tells him she is busy and sends him outside while she cleans up the cobwebs. Around the graveyard, all of the dead are refusing to speak to him. They sing a strange song, “All must dance the Macabray.” Only little Fortinbras Bartleby admits that tomorrow night is a special night, but his family whisks him away from Bod before he can say more.

Silas appears with a set of clothes for Bod to wear. He explains that, now that he is ten, Bod should stop wearing an old gray sheet and get in the habit of dressing like the living. Silas says he does not know about the dance: it is for the dead and the living, and he is neither. Hearing this, Bod wants to hug Silas, but hugging Silas is impossible.

The next morning, three living men and a living woman come into the Egyptian Walk in the graveyard and cut flowers. The men keep telling the woman, the Mayoress, that it is a tradition to cut the flowers and pass them out to the townspeople. She mutters that nobody ever told her about any such tradition. Bod forgets that he is not supposed to leave the graveyard, and he follows her into the town and watches her give the flowers to the people. He makes sure to get one for himself.

Strange music starts, and all the people with their flowers march around the Old Town. When the clock strikes midnight, the dead march down the hill and join them. Everyone dances, the dead and the living, and the Lady on the Gray appears and dances with Bod. He asks if he can ride her horse, and she promises he will do so someday in the future. Then the clock strikes twelve again, and the dead are gone. The living drop their flowers and wander home as if sleepwalking.

The next day, nobody in the graveyard—not even Bod’s parents—will admit what happened the night before. Bod loses his temper with the venerable Josiah Worthington, who says:

The dead and the living do not mingle, boy…If it happened that we danced the danse macabre with them, the dance of death, then we would not speak of it, and we certainly would not speak of it to the living.

This makes Bod realize that he danced on the side of the living, whom he does not know, and not with the dead, who are his friends and family. He seeks out Silas to ask why people refuse to talk about the dance, and Silas says:

Because there are mysteries. Because there are things that people are forbidden to speak about. Because there are things they do not remember.

Bod protests that Silas watched the whole thing, and Silas says he does not know what he saw. Bod drops the subject only when it begins to snow.