Authors: John Bellairs,Mercer Mayer
THE FIGURE IN THE SHADOWS
“A sequel to
The House With a Clock in Its Walls
has the same cast: orphaned Lewis; Uncle Jonathan and his neighbor Mrs. Zimmermann, both benevolent sorcerers; and Lewis’s friend Rose Rita, who has all the nerve Lewis wishes he had. Lewis hopes the old coin in the trunk is an amulet. . . . It is magical, and it is evil; using it, Lewis evokes the shadowed figure of a ghost and puts himself in great danger. Again here . . . Bellairs combines effectively an aura of brooding suspense and . . . down to earth [characterization]. Smoothly contrapuntal, often amusing, and adroitly constructed and paced.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Crisp prose and well-wrought suspense maintain the story’s pace. . . . An entertaining occult novel.”
IN THE SHADOWS
THE HOUSE WITH
A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS
drawings by Mercer Mayer
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group Young Readers
Penguin Group (USA) LLC
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New York, New York 10014
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A Penguin Random House Company
First published in the United States of America by The Dial Press, 1975
Published in Puffin Books, 1993
Text copyright © 1975 by John Bellairs
Illustrations copyright © 1975 by Mercer Mayer
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The figure in the shadows / John Bellairs; drawings by Mercer Mayer.
“Sequel to The house with a clock in its walls.”
Summary: A painfully overweight sixth-grade boy receives a magic amulet which brings him luck, but also terrifying side effects..
[1. Magic—Fiction.] I. Mayer, Mercer, 1943– ill. II. Title.
[PZ7.B413Fi 1993] [Fic]—dc20 92-31362
For Don Wilcox, David Walters,
and Jonathan Grandine
Friends who have been friends indeed
Table of Contents
Lewis Barnavelt stood at the edge of the playground, watching the big boys fight.
It was a real battle. Tom Lutz and Dave Shellenberger were two of the big wheels that ran Lewis’s school. Usually they beat up on everybody else; now they were slugging it out with each other. In a funny way, it reminded Lewis of the battles of gods and heroes that he had read about in the Classics Comics version of the
“Here, see how you like that, huh?” Tom threw a handful of gravel in Dave’s face. Dave charged Tom, and now the two of them were rolling over and over on the ground, kicking and clawing and screaming dirty words. Lewis saw that the fight might be coming his
way, so he backed into the shadowy alley that ran between the school and the Episcopal church next door.
Normally, Lewis wouldn’t have been caught within miles of a fight like this one. Lewis was fat and moon-faced. In his brown sweater and baggy corduroy trousers, he looked like a balloon ascension. At least, that’s what his mean Aunt Mattie had said about him once, and the phrase “balloon ascension” had gotten stuck in Lewis’s mind. His hands were soft and padded, and wouldn’t develop calluses, even when he rubbed them with sandpaper. When he flexed his muscles, nothing happened. He was scared of fights, and he was scared of getting beat up.
Then what was he doing standing there watching two of the toughest kids in school slug it out? Well, the back door of the school opened onto the playground, and Rose Rita had told Lewis to meet her by the back door, and when she said something, she meant it. Rose Rita Pottinger was Lewis’s best friend, and she was being kept after school for sassing Miss Haggerty, their sixth-grade teacher—Rose Rita was a year older than Lewis, but she was in the same grade, which was nice.
Lewis paced up and down in the dark alley. What was taking her so long? He was getting more and more nervous, with the fight going on nearby. What if they got tired of fighting with each other and decided to beat up on him?
Lewis jumped. Then he turned around. There was Rose Rita.
She was a good head taller than he was, and she wore glasses. Her hair was long and dark and stringy. On her head she wore a black plush beanie with an ivory stud. The beanie was covered with cartoon-character buttons, the kind you used to get in Kellogg’s cereal boxes. Rose Rita wore the beanie all the time.
“Hi,” said Lewis. “Did you have to do a lot of stuff?”
Rose Rita shrugged. “Oh, not much. Come on, let’s get going. I want to go home first and get out of these dumb clothes.”
This was typical of Rose Rita. She wore a skirt and blouse to school because she had to, but the minute she was out of school, she ran home and put on blue jeans and a sweatshirt. Rose Rita was a tomboy. She liked to do things that usually only boys wanted to do, like fishing and climbing trees and playing baseball. Lewis wasn’t very good at any of these things, but he enjoyed being with Rose Rita, and she enjoyed being with him. It was September now, and they had been friends since April.
They were on their way down the alley when Rose Rita noticed the paper bag that Lewis was carrying in his left hand.
“What’s in there?” she asked.
“My Sherlock Holmes hat.”
“Oh.” Rose Rita knew about Lewis’s Sherlock Holmes hat. Lewis’s uncle had given it to him as a Fourth of July
present. But she still was curious. “How come you’ve got it in a sack?”
“I want to wear it on Main Street, but I want to make sure there won’t be any kids around when I put it on.”
Rose Rita stared at him. “You mean you’re just gonna whip it out and put it on and then stuff it back in your bag again?”
“Yeah,” said Lewis. He felt embarrassed.
Rose Rita looked more puzzled than ever. “Well, if you’re so scared,” she said, “why do you want to wear it on Main Street at all? There’s likely to be lots of people there to stare at you.”
“I know,” said Lewis, stubbornly. “But I don’t care if a lot of grownups see my hat. I just don’t want some smart-aleck kid to steal it from me.”
Rose Rita smiled sympathetically. She knew that Lewis was always being pestered by bullies. “Okay, okay,” she said. “It’s your hat. Come on.”
They walked on down the alley and over a block to Main Street. The town that Rose Rita and Lewis lived in was a small town, and the main street was only three blocks long. On it were drug stores and ten cent stores and clothing stores and restaurants and bars. They had gotten as far as Kresge’s Ten Cent Store when Lewis stopped and looked hastily around.
“Do you think it’d be okay now, Rose Rita? I don’t see any kids around.” He started to fumble with the top of the bag.
Rose Rita got angry. “Oh, come
, Lewis! This is just idiotic! Look, I have to go in here and buy some pencils and paper and stuff. Then I have to go home and change. I’ll meet you at your uncle’s house. Okay?”
She was gone before he could answer. Lewis felt a little mad at her, and he also felt foolish. He looked around once more. No mean kids coming. Good. He took out the hat and put it on.
It was really a very fine hat. It was green plaid with stiff visors in front and in back, and ear flaps that were tied up over the top of the hat. When Lewis put it on he felt brave and clever, like Sherlock Holmes tracking down an evildoer in the London fog. Lewis looked around again. He decided that he would wear the hat for the full three blocks, right down to the G.A.R. Hall. Nobody could do anything to him in that short a space.
Lewis walked along with his head down, watching the sidewalk as it went by. A couple of grownups turned and stared at him as he passed. He saw them out of the corner of his eye, but he tried not to notice them. It was funny how he felt two different ways about the hat: on the one hand, he was proud to be wearing it. But he felt embarrassed too. He would be glad when he got to the G.A.R. Hall.
Lewis had just passed Heemsoth’s Drug Store when he heard a nasty sarcastic voice say, “Gee, I wish
had a hat like that!”
Lewis stopped dead in his tracks. It was Woody Mingo.
Lewis was scared to death of Woody, and he figured that even Dave Shellenberger and Tom Lutz would think twice before they took him on. It wasn’t that he was big and strong. He was just a little wiry guy. But he was tough, and he carried a jacknife in his pocket. There were stories that he had actually threatened kids with it.
Lewis backed away. A chilly breath blew through his body. “Come on, Woody,” he said. “I never did anything to you. Leave me alone.”
Woody snickered. “Lemme see your hat,” he said, holding out his hand.
“Promise to give it back?”
“Oh sure. I promise.”
Lewis’s heart sank. He knew what that tone of voice meant. He would never see his hat again. Lewis looked around to see if there were any grownups nearby who might help him. Nope. Not a one. This end of Main Street was as empty as it was on Sunday morning.
“Come on. Lemme see the hat.” Woody sounded impatient. Lewis’s eyes filled with tears. Should he run? If he did, he wouldn’t get very far. Like most fat kids, Lewis couldn’t run very fast. He ran out of breath in a hurry, and he got pains in his side. Woody would catch him and take the hat and pound on his shoulders till he was sore. Sadly, Lewis lifted the hat off his head. He handed it to Woody.
With that same nasty smile, Woody turned the hat over in his hands. He put it on and adjusted the brim.
“Gee, now I look just like Sherlock Holmes in the movies. Well, so long, fatso. Thanks for the hat.” Woody turned and sauntered away.
Lewis stood there and watched him go. He felt sick. Tears were running down his face, and his clenched fists were trembling.
“You gimme my hat back!” Lewis yelled. “I’ll tell the police on you and they’ll throw you in jail for a hundred years!”
Woody never answered. He just walked slowly away, swaggering. He knew Lewis couldn’t do a thing to him.
Lewis stumbled blindly down the street. He was crying hard. When he wiped his eyes and looked around, he found that he was in East End Park, a tiny park at the eastern end of Main Street. There were a few benches in the park, and a flower garden surrounded by a little iron fence. Lewis sat down on one of the benches and wiped his eyes. Then he cried some more. How come he hadn’t been born strong like other kids? Why did everybody have to pick on him? It wasn’t fair.
Lewis sat there on the bench for a fairly long time. Suddenly he sat up straight. He dug into his pocket and pulled out his watch. It was late! He was supposed to meet Rose Rita back at his house, because she had been invited over for dinner. Of course, she had to go home first and change her clothes. But Rose Rita was pretty speedy. She was probably sitting on his front porch
right now. Lewis jumped up and started walking quickly toward home.
By the time he got to 100 High Street, where he lived, Lewis was out of breath. There, sure enough, was Rose Rita, sitting next to his uncle on the green striped glider. They were blowing bubbles.
Lewis watched as his Uncle Jonathan blew into the carved meerschaum pipe he was holding. A bubble began to form. It grew and grew until it was about the size of a grapefruit. Then it broke away from the pipe and drifted slowly across the yard toward Lewis. The bubble halted about three inches from his face and began to revolve slowly. In its curved surface Lewis saw reflected Rose Rita, the chestnut tree in the front yard, himself, the tall stone mansion where he lived, and the laughing red-bearded face of his Uncle Jonathan.
Lewis liked his Uncle Jonathan a lot. He had been living with him for a little over a year now. Before that, Lewis had lived in Milwaukee with his parents. But one night, both his father and his mother were killed in a car accident. So in the summer of 1948 Lewis had come to live with his Uncle Jonathan in the town of New Zebedee, Michigan.
The bubble popped, and Lewis felt something on his face. He put up his hand and wiped some of it away. It was shaving lather. Purple shaving lather.
Rose Rita and Jonathan laughed. This was one of Jonathan’s magic tricks. He was able to do magic tricks because he was a wizard, a real live wizard with mysterious powers. Rose Rita had found out about Jonathan’s wizardry at about the same time that she got to be friends with Lewis. But it didn’t faze her a bit. She had taken it all in her stride. Once or twice Lewis had heard her tell Jonathan to his face that she would like him even if he wasn’t a wizard.
As Lewis stood there giggling at the shaving-lather trick, he heard a familiar voice say, “Lewis! You look beautiful!”
Lewis looked up. It was Mrs. Zimmermann. She was standing in the doorway of the house, drying a dish with a lavender-colored towel. Mrs. Zimmermann lived next door, but she was practically a member of the Barnavelt family. She was a strange person. For one thing, she was crazy about the color purple. She liked anything that was purple, from the violets of early spring to maroon-colored Pontiacs. And she was a witch. Not a cruel witch with a black hat and a broom and an evil laugh, but a friendly, likable, next-door-neighbor witch. She didn’t show off her magic powers as often as Jonathan did, but Lewis knew that she was a more powerful magician than his uncle was.
Lewis wiped more shaving lather off his face. “It doesn’t look beautiful at all, Mrs. Zimmermann!” he
yelled. “You just think it does because you like everything to be purple!”
Mrs. Zimmermann chuckled. “Well, maybe so. But it’s nice all the same. Come on in and wash it off. Dinner’s ready.”
Lewis was just sitting down at the table when he remembered that he was supposed to be unhappy.
“Gee, I forgot all about my hat,” he said.
Rose Rita looked at him. “Yeah, that’s right. What happened to your hat? Did you wear it for a whole block, or what?”
Lewis stared at the tablecloth. “Woody Mingo took it.”
Rose Rita stopped smiling. “I’m sorry, Lewis,” she said, and she really meant it.
Jonathan heaved a deep sigh and laid down his knife and fork. “I told you not to wear it on the street, Lewis. The hat was just for playing with around the house. You know what kids are like.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Lewis, sadly. He stuffed some mashed potatoes into his mouth and chewed them moodily.