Cover image for The heart of a witch
Title:
The heart of a witch
Author:
Hawkes, Judith.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Signet, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
418 pages ; 18 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780451197221
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Status
Central Library X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

In the small town of Green Hollow, New York, the Lockley Arms hotel stands as the meeting place for a coven of witches. When the hotel's owners perish in a mysterious car accident, the coven's leader searches for suitable replacements, for the coven membership must equal thirteen. The teenage twins who live across the street from the hotel volunteer to join the witches's circle. But during their apprenticeship, an evil force kidnaps several of the town's little boys, and the coven must pool its power to combat this sinister threat....


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One To strangers driving the backcountry of upstate New York just west of the Hudson River, the landscape has a somber feel. The sky is often overcast, and the winding roads are lined with unkempt hedges that seem to obscure the view as if by intention, offering only grudging glimpses of straggling orchards and stretches of bleak farmland above which rise the mountains--dark, silent, aloof. Occasionally the road leads through one of those shabby little villages that clearly knew better days once upon a time, back in the era when this region saw brief service as a playground for the idle rich. Those days are long gone, and their prosperity with them. Now most of the villages offer a depressingly similar aspect: a Main Street with a lot of boarded-up windows, littered sidewalks, no visible population except for one or two incurious locals who watch the infrequent car go by.     Yet once in a while there's one that still shows signs of life--a place where the sun shines brightly and the buildings are freshly painted, where people bustle along a Main Street lined with striped shop awnings and a little park with a bandstand resounds with the shouts of children playing--and that's when it's suddenly possible to sense the charm of life here, the way everyone says it used to be. That's when the urge comes to stop the car right now, pull over to the side of the road and let the pace of existence slow to the measured magic of a long summer afternoon: white wicker chairs, iced tea, birdsong and the sleepy click of croquet mallets audible from the other side of a high green hedge.     Magic. Is there any other word for the atmosphere of such places? A quality as elusive, as capricious as the enchanted gold hidden in these timeless mountains by the Little People who, according to the tales of Washington Irving, once made their home here. That faerie gold may appear substantial enough, shimmering in the sun. But try to grasp it and it will vanish like wisping smoke.     The village of Green Hollow possessed that intangible magic once, back when Kip and Shelley Davies were growing up. It was a different place in those days, back before the Vietnam War, the birth control pill, and the microchip--a thriving place, confident and serene. The Janicot Company, a mail-order bookseller, provided a livelihood for over a hundred people. The local merchantry flourished--the E-Z Stop Grocery, Main Street Texaco, Purdy's Variety, the Pig & Whistle Restaurant, Duncan's Laundry, Kate's Antiques and Collectibles--and every summer old Bill Garrett drove his Mister Softee truck slowly up and down the tree-lined streets, its mechanical music warbling off-key through the long tender dusks. At the lone stoplight (intersection of Main and Willow) the Town Council offices and local library shared a gabled stone building of the Old Dutch style, with a clock tower that visitors made much of. But the real architectural showplace, several houses south of the intersection yet near enough to shed its glory over the center of town, was an elegant inn called the Lockley Arms.     The Davies family lived right across the street. It wasn't easy for Kip and Shelley, growing up across the street from the Arms. There was Mother's rule about not playing in the front yard, only in the back, and even then not letting their games get too noisy. Her worry was that they might disturb the guests staying at the Arms--those august personages who came and went with mysterious purpose at all hours of the day and night, their sleek cars gliding up and down the driveway, polished surfaces winking in the sun or, as dusk fell, catching a whispery gleam from the old-fashioned lantern that illuminated the inn's sign. The words of that sign were as familiar to the twins as their own names. The Lockley Arms Offering Fine Hospitality Since 1881 Everett and Emma Lockley, Innkeepers      The Arms was a Victorian delight, three stories of immaculate white clapboard, graceful and gabled and topped by a tower with a pointed dunce-cap roof. There was a double porch whose lower roof extended out over the driveway to shelter guests arriving in rain or snow, and Elaine Davies had explained to her children that this arrangement was called a portecochère , the foreign term echoing with mysterious glamour in their small ears. Beyond it, the driveway dipped out of sight to what they knew to be a small parking area for guests, with gardens and grounds beyond. The whole spacious acreage was enclosed by a towering green hedge like a fortress wall.     Although the twins were strictly forbidden to set foot on the Arms property, their knowledge of it was not purely abstract. Benjy Hendricks, who lived down the street and was two grades ahead of them at school, had made several exploratory missions that he was more than willing to describe in detail, down to the moment he was spotted and chased away by the yardman, a hairless giant named Royce who never spoke. From Benjy, the twins knew that beyond the parking lot was an overgrown gully with a trickling brook at the bottom. In the fragrant shade of pine trees you crossed a wooden footbridge--stopping a moment to look down at the brook and watch the shadows of minnows flicking through sunny patches on the bottom--then you went on to emerge in bright sunlight onto a lawn like velvet. After the shade, the sunshine made you blink. To your right stood the old carriage house, where the inn's staff lived on the second floor above Royce's well-kept equipment. To your left was a high wall of leaves. You crept closer, found a gate of slender iron bars set between stone pillars. Beyond the gate a rectangle of clear turquoise water sparkled in the sun--the swimming pool, surrounded by little tables with umbrellas and striped canvas chairs.     If you happened to notice, Benjy said, there was another gate at the far end of the pool. This was a double gate, and on each half the delicate bars had been curved to incorporate a circled pair of letters-- L and A --into the design. Listening to his description, Shelley could see that far gate in her head--the sun shining through the spidery bars, the circled LA LA casting its shadow on the grass like the nonsense syllables of a soundless song.     The swimming pool was as far as Benjy ever got before being discovered. And it was almost as if discovery, and the chase that followed, were his favorite part of the whole adventure--what kept him coming back, even more than a taste for forbidden exploring. His eel-thin body seemed fashioned for narrow escapes. The twins pictured him running, his blond hair flying back, as they listened breathlessly to his account of tearing around a corner of the carriage house with Royce in voiceless pursuit--of realizing the giant was gaining on him and knowing he would never make it as far as the footbridge--of diving into a tiny hole in the high hedge and wriggling through its scratchy thickness to emerge at last in the prosaic back parking lot of the E-Z Stop on Main Street.     It was a tale that gave Shelley a stomachache just listening to it. But glancing over at Kip she saw his eyes were shining.     "Let's sneak over there," he said later, after Benjy had gone home. Nearly three years had passed since the incident with the baseball. If they remembered it at all, it was with a kind of wondering disgust that they had ever been naive enough to believe their parents' warnings about the hazards of traffic on Willow Street. Now they crossed it half a dozen times a day--on the way to school or the library, to run errands or visit friends, almost never bothering to use the traffic light at the corner. But the Arms itself was still off-limits. Mother was adamant about that, and her strict rule had so far managed to restrain them.     I think Mother would have died rather than offend the Lockleys in any way. They were the most respected people in Green Hollow, aristocratic and distinctly benevolent, possessed of the tall, icy elegance of a royal pair in a fairy tale. Mrs. Lockley was from England, which in Mother's view was roughly the same as hailing from heaven. The happiest I ever saw her was on the rare occasion when she encountered one of them by chance (they seldom left the Arms, and I myself could remember seeing them only once or twice) and garnered a nod or a gracious word. After such an event there would be a glow around her for the rest of the day, while Dad watched her with a rueful look on his face.     He was a disappointment to her. I grew to understand that sad fact long before I was able to articulate it. In the life of our family it was an aching undercurrent so constant that Kip and I were never consciously aware of it; we simply accepted the tension between our parents as natural, as we accepted the constant feather-smoothing efforts of Aunt Marty, Dad's younger sister who lived with us, paying for her keep out of the salary she earned as a nurse/receptionist for Green Hollow's only doctor.     In Mother's view, Dad had let her down. She had married a young man with a future, a brilliant English teacher (who else, I ask you, would name his children Shelley and Kipling?) destined to rise through the system to an important administrative position. Instead, fifteen years later, he was still in the classroom, brilliant as ever but recognized by the school board as a scholar and dreamer who had best remain there. A disastrous stint as principal had proved him incapable of coping with administrative business--crucial deadlines slipped past him; he muddled paperwork, forgot meetings, failed to control an unruly new teacher. The board eased him out of the position at the end of a year, to the relief of everyone but Mother--I can still remember her shock and hurt at his "demotion" and how for months afterward her eyes would redden and she would abruptly leave the room, Dad looking guiltily after her.     Yet who can blame her for wanting success on her own terms? She had expected it, planned for it, and seen her hopes come to nothing. A schoolteacher's salary wasn't much, and in those days it was virtually unheard of for a married woman with children to hold a job--so we were always just scraping by, Kip and I pricked with obscure guilt every time we outgrew our clothes and shoes, always anxious about showing the proper appreciation for every birthday or Christmas gift. We wanted to please her, to try and make her happy, and perhaps that is why it took us so long to violate her rule about staying away from the Lockley Arms.     Because the place tempted them mightily. Forbidden by parental decree, guarded by the fearsome Royce, it possessed a beguiling air of separateness that Benjy's tales of narrow escape served only to enhance. The world as the twins knew it--the routine world of family and school, friends and homework and chores--stopped abruptly at the border of that high green hedge, and whatever lay beyond was lost in the haze of their imaginations' far horizon. For the uncharted places inside each of us, is there some piece of the external world that provides a reflective surface? Late at night, when he was supposed to be asleep, Kip had a habit of sitting on the windowsill of his darkened bedroom, watching the house across the street. Shadows moved on the curtains; faint music and laughter floated on the night air as the moon rose in the sky. Once a huge white owl, with eyes yellow as doubloons, silently floated down to roost on the tower roof. Once a woman came out onto the second-story porch and spoke to a cat crouched there on the railing, and the cat answered her with a human voice.     Or so Kip claimed. Was he falling asleep as he sat there, weaving bits of reality into the fabric of his dreams? Shelley herself preferred a more mundane reconnaissance. On the way to school in the morning, passing the Arms driveway, she had discovered it was a simple thing to drop her notebook in such a way that the loose pages spilled out of it. While gathering them up, she could surreptitiously survey the realm inside the bastion of the hedge, and using this approach she had managed to collect a few fragments of her own.     Once she saw a brown and topaz tabby cat dash across the grass and heard a voice inside the house call, "Rowan, that's your last warning!" The cat flirted its tail and kept going, but as it passed Shelley she thought she saw it wink. Another day the yard was deserted, but she could hear voices from an open window, and a few scattered notes from a piano. All at once the melody unfolded and a man's voice came floating out across the lawn. How many moons be in the year? There are thirteen, I say, And the midsummer moon is the merriest of all, Next to the wooing moon of May.     Once, peeking around the hedge, she caught a glimpse of three girls in pale dresses dancing in a circle on the green lawn, hands joined and laughter light on the spring air. But when she blinked, they were transformed into three apple trees growing close together, their spindly branches veiled in pink blossom.     And then there was the time she glanced up from retrieving her geography book (she wasn't such a fool as to drop her notebook every time) to see a man standing on the front porch watching her. With a qualm she recognized the hawklike face and fair, silver-streaked hair: Everett Lockley himself, dressed entirely in black, down to the gleam of a black feather in his soft felt hat. As she knelt transfixed at the foot of the driveway, caught in the act of snooping, he touched his hat brim and smiled. Shelley looked down to fumble the book into her bag. When she glanced up again an instant later, he was gone. But there was a sudden flutter of wings as a large black crow lit on the edge of her book bag and perched there, head cocked coyly to one side. Its bright little eye met hers briefly before it squawked and flew away.     When Kip made his proposal about sneaking over to the Arms, her heart gave a little jump. It was May; the end of the school year was in sight and the warming weather had penetrated her bones and made them itch. She desperately wanted to investigate the provocative domain across the street. To make in reality the journey she had made already in imagination--pass beneath the porte cochere, cross the footbridge over the brook and see for herself the swimming pool and the silently singing gate beyond. But the rest of Benjy's tale--pursuit and near capture--was a powerful deterrent. Benjy had no father (a mysterious deficiency he flatly refused to explain) and his mother, who suffered from chronic migraines that Lisa Bryant had overheard her mother saying were really hangovers, presumably did not care if her offspring trespassed on the Arms' property. But the twins' mother felt otherwise.     "Mother'll kill us."     "She won't find out."     "What if Royce catches us?"     Kip snorted. "He won't."     "Why not?" It was her turn to sneer. "We'll be wearing our invisible suits?"     "No. I've got a plan." He was too intent on it to acknowledge her sarcasm, and Shelley looked uneasily at him. Above bright hazel eyes his dark brows formed a line of fierce concentration. "We'll go at night," he said. "When everyone else is asleep." Copyright (c) 1999 Judith Hawkes. All rights reserved.

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