The House with a Clock In Its Walls

BOOK: The House with a Clock In Its Walls
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A bump in the night . . . 

Lewis slid out of bed. As slowly and carefully as he could, he tiptoed to the door. He opened it, just as slowly and carefully. He didn’t open it far. Just a crack. He looked out.

The hall was dark, except for a glimmering gray window down at the far end. But Lewis could hear something moving. And now he saw the faint, pale circle of a flashlight beam moving over the wallpaper. Frightened, Lewis pulled the door shut and then opened it just a crack. The flashlight beam had stopped. Now the figure with the flashlight brought his fist down on the wall—hard. Lewis heard little clots of plaster falling down into the space between the walls. The figure pounded again, and again. . . .

“Black magic against white, good against evil, the mood and suspense are artfully created and the illustrations exactly right for the eerie tale.”

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Discover the Terrifying World of
John Bellairs!

Johnny Dixon Mysteries

The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder

The Chessmen of Doom

The Curse of the Blue Figurine

The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie

The Eyes of the Killer Robot

The Hand of the Necromancer

The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt

The Revenge of the Wizard’s Ghost

The Secret of the Underground Room

The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull

The Trolley to Yesterday

The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost

Lewis Barnavelt Mysteries

The Beast Under the Wizard’s Bridge

The Doom of the Haunted Opera

The Figure in the Shadows

The Ghost in the Mirror

The House With a Clock in Its Walls

The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring

The Specter from the Magician’s Museum

The Tower at the End of the World

The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder

The Whistle, the Grave, and the Ghost

Anthony Monday Mysteries

The Dark Secret of Weatherend

The Lamp from the Warlock’s Tomb

The Mansion in the Mist

The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn

The House With a
Clock in Its Walls


pictures by Edward Gorey



Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700,

Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), Cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany, Auckland 1310, New Zealand

(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England

First published in the United States of America by The Dial Press, 1973

Published by Puffin Books, 1993

Reissued by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2004

Text copyright © John Bellairs, 1973

Text renewal copyright © Suzanne Bellairs and Frank Bellairs, 2002

Illustrations copyright © Edward Gorey, 1973

All rights reserved


Bellairs, John.

The house with a clock in its walls/by John Bellairs; illustrated by Edward Gorey.

p.   cm.

Sequel: The figure in the shadows.

Summary: A boy goes to live with his magician uncle in a mansion that has a clock hidden in the walls which is ticking off the minutes until doomsday.

[1. Magic—Fiction.] I. Gorey, Edward, 1925-2000, ill. II. Title.

PZ7. B413Ho 1993 [Fic]—dc20 92-26794

ISBN: 978-1-101-65971-7

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

For Priscilla, who lets me be myself

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven


Lewis Barnavelt fidgeted and wiped his sweaty palms on the seat of the bus that was roaring toward New Zebedee. The year was 1948, and it was a warm, windy summer evening. Outside, that is. Lewis could see the moonlit trees tossing gently beyond his window, which was sealed shut like all the windows on the bus.

He looked down at his purple corduroy trousers, the kind that go
when you walk. He put his hand up and rubbed it across his hair, which was parted in the middle and slicked down with Wildroot Cream Oil. His hand was greasy now, so he wiped it on the seat again. His lips were moving, and he was saying a prayer. It was one of his altar-boy prayers:

Quia tu es Deus fortitudo mea; quare me repulisti, et quare tristis incedo, dum affligit me inimicus?

For Thou O God art my strength; why have you cast me off, and why do I go sorrowful, while the enemy afflicts me?

He tried to remember more prayers, but the only one he could come up with was another question:

Quare tristis es anima mea, et quare conturbas me?

Why art thou sorrowful O my soul, and why do you trouble me?

It seemed to Lewis that all he could think of these days were questions: Where am I going? Who will I meet? Will I like them? What will happen to me?

Lewis Barnavelt was ten years old. Until recently he had lived with his parents in a small town near Milwaukee. But his father and mother had been killed suddenly one night in an auto accident, and now Lewis was on his way to New Zebedee, the county seat of Capharnaum County in the state of Michigan. He was going to live with his Uncle Jonathan, whom he had never met in his life. Of course, Lewis had heard a few things about Uncle Jonathan, like that he smoked and drank and played poker. These were not such bad things in a Catholic family, but Lewis had two maiden aunts who were Baptists, and they had warned him about Jonathan. He hoped that the warnings would turn out to be unnecessary.

As the bus rounded a curve, Lewis looked at his reflection in the window next to his seat. He saw a moony fat face with shiny cheeks. The lips on the face were moving. Lewis was saying the altar-boy prayers again, this time with the wish that they might make Uncle Jonathan like him.
Judica me Deus
 . . . Judge me O God . . . no, don’t judge me, help me to live a happy life.

It was five minutes to nine when the bus pulled up in front of Heemsoth’s Rexall Drug Store in the town of New Zebedee. Lewis got up, wiped his hands on his trousers, and tugged at the enormous cardboard suitcase that hung out over the edge of the metal rack. Lewis’s father had bought the suitcase in London at the end of World War II. It was covered with ripped and faded Cunard Line stickers. Lewis pulled hard, and the suitcase lurched down onto his head. He staggered back across the aisle with the suitcase held perilously in the air; then he sat down suddenly, and the suitcase landed in his lap with a

“Oh, come on! Don’t kill yourself before I have a chance to meet you!”

There in the aisle stood a man with a bushy red beard that was streaked in several places with white. His Big Mac khaki trousers were bulged out in front by his pot belly, and he was wearing a gold-buttoned red vest over a blue work shirt. Lewis noticed that the vest had four pockets; there were pipe cleaners sticking out of the top two, and a chain of paper clips was strung between the
lower pair. One end of the chain was hooked to the winding knob of a gold watch.

Jonathan van Olden Barnavelt took his steaming pipe out of his mouth and held out his hand.

“Hi, Lewis. I’m your Uncle Jonathan. I recognized you from a picture your father once sent me. Welcome to New Zebedee.”

Lewis shook hands, and noticed that the back of Jonathan’s hand was covered with a springy mat of red hair. The coat of hair ran right up his sleeve and disappeared. Lewis wondered if he had red hair all over his body.

BOOK: The House with a Clock In Its Walls
2.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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