mockingbird chapter 47


It was unusually warm for the last day of October. The streetlights were on. There was no moon.

Jem was carrying my ham costume. I thought he was very gallant.

We were in front of the Radley Place. «It is a scary place, ain’t it?» I said. «Boo doesn’t mean anybody any harm, but I’m right glad you’re along.»

Jem said, «Perhaps Boo isn’t at home. Listen.»

High above us in the darkness a mocking-bird was singing his repertoire in happy ignorance of whose tree he sat in.

We turned off the road and entered the schoolyard. It was pitch dark

«How do you know where we’re now, Jem?» I asked, when we had gone a few steps.

«I can tell we’re under the big oak because we’re passin’ through a cool spot.»

We walked very slowly so as not to bump into the tree. It was a very old oak at the far end of the schoolyard near the Radley lot.

«Why haven’t you brought the flashlight, Jem?»

«Didn’t know it was this dark. It’s because of the clouds.»

Someone jumped at us.

A circle of light shot in our faces, and Cecil Jacobs jumped merrily behind it. «Ha-a-a, gotcha!» he shouted. «Thought you’d be cornin’ along this way!»

«What are you doin’ way out here by yourself, boy? Ain’t you scared of Boo Radley?»

Cecil had come to the auditorium by car with his parents, hadn’t seen us, then had risked down this far because he knew well we’d be coming along. But he thought Mr. pinch’d be with us.

Jem said that we weren’t afraid to walk just around the comer by ourselves. But we agreed that he had given us a fright, and he could tell it all over the schoolhouse, that was his privilege.

Cecil said that he had put his cow costume behind the stage and I could do the same. The performance was to start later, and we could go to the hallway where the booths had been installed.

Jem thought this was an excellent idea. This way, he could go with people his own age.

Cecil and I each had thirty cents to spend at the Halloween party. We spent our first nickels on the House of Horrors, which scared us not at all; we entered the black room and the temporary ghoul in residence led us around and he made us touch several objects. He said they were parts of a human body. «Here’s his eyes,» we were told when we touched two peeled grapes on a saucer. «Here’s his heart,» which felt like raw liver. «These are his innards,» and our hands were pushed into a plate of cold spaghetti.

Cecil and I visited several booths. We each bought a sack of Mrs. Judge Taylor’s homemade cookies. I wanted to mouth- hunt for apples, but Cecil’s mother said it wasn’t sanitary to put your head in the same tub with others, so he told me.

We were in one of the booths when Mrs. Merriweather’s runners came and told us to go backstage, it was time to get ready. The auditorium was filling with people; the Maycomb County High School band was in front below the stage.

Backstage, in the narrow passage, we saw a lot of people: adults in homemade three-corner hats, Confederate caps, Spanish-American War hats, and World War helmets. Children dressed as various agricultural products gathered around the one small window. Mrs. Merriweather helped me get inside my costume.

The band played the national anthem, and the audience rose. Then the drum sounded. Mrs. Merriweather, who stood beside the band, said: «Maycomb County Ad Astra Per Aspera.» The drum boomed again. «That means,» Mrs. Merriweather translated for the ignorant elements, «from the mud to the stars.»

Mrs. Merriweather began to tell the history of Maycomb County. She said that it was older than the state, that it was a part of the Mississippi and Alabama Territories, that it was founded by the fearless Colonel Maycomb, for whom the county was named. She gave a thirty-minute description of Colonel Maycomb’s exploits. I discovered that if I bent my knees I could tuck them under my costume and more or less sit. I sat down, listened to Mrs. Merriweather’s monotonous voice and was soon fast asleep.

They said later that Mrs. Merriweather was putting her all into the grand finale that she had sung softly, «Po-ork,» in confidence that I would appear at once as pine trees and beans had done. She waited a few seconds, then called, «Po-ork?» When nothing materialized, she shouted, «Pork!»

Perhaps I heard her in my sleep, or the band playing Dixie woke me, but at the moment when Mrs. Merriweather triumphantly put the state flag on the stage, I made my entrance.

Mrs. Merriweather had a great success. Everybody was cheering and applauding. But she caught me backstage and told me I had ruined her performance. She made me feel awful, but when Jem came to take me home, he was sympathetic. He said I did all right, I just came in a little late, that was all. Jem was becoming almost as good as Atticus at making you feel right when things went wrong. Almost — not even Jem could make me go through that crowd, and he agreed to wait backstage with me until the audience left.

«You wanta take it off, Scout?» he asked.

«Naw, I’ll just keep it on,» I said. I could hide my shame under it.


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