Spellbound: The Books of Elsewhere, p.1Jacqueline West
Table of Contents
About the author
DIAL BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Published by The Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 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
0RL, 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), 67 Apollo Drive,
Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) · Penguin
Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa ·
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Text copyright © 2011 by Jacqueline West Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Poly Bernatene
All rights reserved
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
West, Jacqueline, date.
Spellbound / by Jacqueline West ; illustrated by Poly Bernatene.
p. cm.—(The books of Elsewhere ; v. 2)
Sequel to: Shadows.
ISBN : 978-1-101-51701-7
[1. Space and time—Fiction. 2. Dwellings—Fiction. 3. Magic—Fiction.
4. Books and reading—Fiction. 5. Cats—Fiction.] I. Bernatene, Poly, ill. II. Title.
For Danny and Alex—with ten thousand good memories
EVERYONE WHO LIVED in the big stone house on Linden Street eventually went insane.
That was what the neighbors said, anyway. Mr. Fergus told Mr. Butler about Aldous McMartin, the house’s first owner, a weird old artist who wouldn’t sell a single painting and who only came out of the house at night. Mrs. Dewey and Mr. Hanniman whispered about Annabelle McMartin, Aldous’s granddaughter, who had kicked the bucket right there inside the house at the age of 104, with no friends or family to notice she was dead except for her three gigantic cats, who may or may not have begun nibbling on her head.
And now there were these new owners—these Dunwoodys—who appeared to have already bought their tickets for the crazy train.
Since the beginning of the summer, the neighbors up and down Linden Street had gotten used to seeing a quiet, gangly girl playing or reading in the yard of the big stone house. The girl was usually alone, but every now and then a man with thick glasses and thin hair would mosey out, take the ancient push mower from the shed, and cut one or two crooked rows of grass before stopping to stare up at the sky and mutter to himself. Then he would rush back into the house, leaving the mower on the lawn. Sometimes the mower stood there for days.
At other times, a middle-aged woman came out of the house and wandered around the lawn, absently watering the weeds. The woman was also prone to leaving bags of groceries on the roof of her car, which sent bouncing cascades of oranges and onions down Linden Street each time she pulled out of the driveway. The neighbors watched all of this and shook their heads.
Then, on one bright July morning, the quiet, gangly girl walked out to the mailbox carrying two cans of paint. Behind her trotted a splotchily colored cat with a fishbowl over its head. The house loomed over them, its windows blank and dark, watching. While the cat waited, the girl stood on the curb and painted over the name McMartin, which was still scrawled along the side of the mailbox, and spelled out DUNWOODY on top of it in big green capitals.
Mrs. Nivens, who lived next door and who was pretending to spray her roses, kept a close watch on the pair. Her face was completely enclosed in the shade of her big-brimmed sunhat, but if anyone had gotten a good look at her, they would have seen that her eyes were sharp and interested.
“Ready to return from orbit?” Mrs. Nivens heard the girl whisper to the cat. “Preparing to reenter Earth’s atmosphere in five, four, three, two . . .”
Both the cat and the girl sprang forward, charged up the porch steps, and zoomed through the heavy front door, slamming it behind them with a resounding thud.
Everyone on Linden Street agreed: The Dunwoodys might be an improvement over the McMartins, but they were still clearly insane.
The quiet, gangly girl was named Olive. Right now, she was eleven years old, but she would turn twelve in October. For her last birthday, her parents had given her a pile of books, a box of paints, and a fancy graphing calculator that Olive still hadn’t used for anything except playing games. And she wasn’t very good at the games, either.
The man with the forgotten push mower and the woman with the forgotten groceries were Olive’s parents, Alec and Alice Dunwoody, two mathematicians who taught at a college nearby. Their hands were often smudged with ink. When they moved, chalk dust floated softly from their clothes. Unfortunately, the math gene had not quite reached Olive’s twig on the family tree. The only time Olive ever earned an A on a math test, Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody had taped the test smack in the center of the refrigerator door and then stood in front of it, holding hands, beaming at the paper as if it were a window into some magical, mathematical world.
Olive didn’t know much about math. However, since moving to Linden Street, she had learned a few things about magic.
For instance, Olive knew that by looking through a pair of old spectacles the McMartins had left in the house, along with everything else they owned (their paintings, their dusty books, their three talking cats, their ancestors’ gravestones embedded in the basement walls) a person could make Aldous’s paintings come alive. A person could climb into these paintings and explore. A person—perhaps a quiet, gangly, lonely person—could even bring the portraits of Annabelle and Aldous McMartin to life and let them out into the real world, putting herself and everyone she cared about in terrible danger.
Although Olive had managed at long last to get out of danger again, she had also managed to break the spectacles. (If Olive had been half as good at math as she was at breaking things, her parents would have been very proud.)
Of course, Olive kept the things she had learned to herself. If her parents knew that she believed their house had been besieged by dead witches—witches who came out of paintings, no less—they would probably have taken her straight to the mental hospital. The neighbors up and down Linden Str
There was another reason Olive didn’t tell anybody about the cats or the paintings or the McMartins. She always put this reason second, even in her own head, but the truth was that her secrets would be a lot less fun if she shared them with anyone. Sure, a candy bar tasted good if you ate one half and let your dad have the other, but it was much, much nicer to eat the whole candy bar by yourself.
So Horatio, Leopold, and Harvey worked very hard to behave like normal cats when Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody were around. Olive never mentioned the spectacles or climbing in and out of paintings. And every single day, she stood for a while in the upstairs hall, pressing her nose against the painting of Linden Street, thinking about Morton, the small, once-human boy who was stuck inside, and thinking about herself, still stuck out here.
As Horatio had once said, the painted version of Linden Street was as close to home as Morton could get. Without a family, a heartbeat, or a body that could grow up, Morton didn’t belong in the real world anymore. But as someone who used to have all those things, he didn’t quite belong in a painting, either. Olive was still hoping to find the place where he did belong, but in spite of all her thinking and nose-pressing, she hadn’t found a way to get inside the paintings on her own—or a way to help Morton out for good.
And so, eventually, everybody in the big house on Linden Street settled down into a quiet routine, like a bunch of friendly but distant planets orbiting around each other.
Olive waited for something interesting to happen. She didn’t know it, but the house was waiting for something too.
BY THE END of July, the weather had turned hot and muggy. Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody spent most weekday afternoons in their offices at the college, where there was air-conditioning. They invited Olive to come along, but Olive didn’t like her parents’ office, where people talked in numbers instead of words, and where there was nothing to do but find patterns in the bumps on the ceiling.
On one of these long afternoons, Olive had the house to herself. Because it was made of stone and surrounded by a thick canopy of old trees, the house never quite got hot inside, but it felt humid and still and very quiet, like a bottle full of fog. The afternoon sun pushed blurry swathes of color through the stainedglass windows. Shadows spread beneath heavy antique armchairs. The picture frames on the walls glimmered faintly. Standing in the silent, stuffy living room, Olive looked at the painting of a couple at a sidewalk café in Paris and imagined wandering through narrow French streets, eating a croissant, tossing crumbs to the pigeons. That sounded like fun. Then she sighed, and, for the thousandth time, touched the spot where the spectacles had once hung around her neck.
She trailed up the carpeted staircase that led from the foyer to the upstairs hall. The painting of the little lake where Olive had found Annabelle McMartin’s locket gleamed softly on the wall halfway up the flight. Annabelle had once tried to drown Olive in that same little lake, but today the water looked harmless, peaceful, even refreshing. Olive blew a puff of air through the wisps of hair that kept getting stuck to her forehead and imagined dabbling her toes in that cool water. Then she remembered the sensation of the lake swirling around her, black and oily, while her kicking feet brushed against cold, slimy things, and the waves closed over her head . . .
She hurried the rest of the way up the stairs.
In the upstairs hallway, Olive stopped at the painting of Linden Street. She had stood in this same spot so many times that the carpet had a little divot where her feet pressed it down. Inside the painting, a misty green hill rolled away toward an old-fashioned version of Linden Street, where the same wood and stone and brick houses occupied by Olive’s neighbors stood in an unchanging twilight. Even without the spectacles, things that had once belonged in the real world—things that Aldous McMartin had hidden or trapped—could sometimes be seen moving inside of their paintings.
Squinting hard, Olive examined the row of houses. Perhaps she was just wishing, but she thought she could see a few small, pale figures bobbing and shifting in the distance. Maybe Morton was one of them. Olive pressed her nose to the canvas, and then jumped backward in surprise when the painting shifted with her touch. When the Dunwoodys first moved into the old stone house, all the paintings had been magically stuck to the walls. Now, with the McMartins out of the way, they could be nudged and moved just like ordinary paintings, and Olive hadn’t quite gotten used to this. She straightened the painting of Linden Street. Then she sighed again and shuffled into her bedroom.
Horatio was asleep on Olive’s vanity. His long body was balanced along the narrow shelf, and his gigantic feather duster of a tail wound delicately through Olive’s collection of old pop bottles. Annabelle’s locket, emptied of its portrait and its powers, was wrapped around the neck of one of Olive’s favorite pop bottles: the bright green one covered with bumps that felt like Bubble Wrap. Once, the locket had been wrapped around Olive’s neck, and she’d thought she would never get it off again. But now that the McMartins were gone, the locket was just one more magical thing that had faded into something normal.
“Horatio?” said Olive.
The cat didn’t move.
“Horatio?” said Olive, more loudly.
“Mmmph,” the cat grunted.
Olive wriggled her toes against the floorboards, steeling herself. “Will you please take me to visit Morton?” she asked, keeping her voice as un-whiny as she could. “It’s been days and days since I’ve seen him.”
Horatio didn’t reply.
“I said, would you please take me to—”
“I heard you, Olive. Even though I was asleep, I heard you.” Horatio turned his head very slightly, and Olive saw one green eye glaring at her from the reflection in the mirror. “Go ask someone else to take you.”
Olive gave a giant sigh. Then she trudged out of the room, glancing up at the painting of Linden Street and hurrying past the bare spot at the head of the stairs where the painting of the moonlit forest used to hang, and which still felt a bit more menacing than a bare bit of wall had any right to. She thumped down the steps, along the high-ceilinged hall, and through the empty kitchen, all the way to the basement door.
Although Olive had gotten used to the basement, she hadn’t grown especially fond of the place. It was always shadowy and dirty, and full of spiders, and even if she couldn’t see them, she knew that the ancient gravestones were there, embedded in the chilly walls.
Olive opened the door and switched on the first light. Its weak glow revealed a rickety wooden staircase dwindling away into the darkness. “Leopold?” Olive called, venturing down the steps. “Are you there?”
At the foot of the staircase, she groped for the next lightbulb’s hanging chain, but it seemed to have disappeared. Wasn’t this where it should be, right at the bottom of the steps? She waved both hands through the air. The darkness of the basement seemed to thicken, the stone walls exhaling cool, damp breaths that tickled the back of Olive’s sweaty neck. She was just about to give up, turn around, and bolt back up the stairs when her palm struck the chain. She pulled it so hard that the lightbulb rattled.
A pair of bright green eyes flickered in the corner. Even though she expected to see them, the sight still made her heart give a shuddery little jump. Then a gruff, familiar voice said, “At your service, miss.”
Olive tiptoed across the gritty basement floor and into the shadows. The gigantic black cat was poised on the trapdoor just as he had been when Olive first met him, as rigid as a statue, his fur as dark and shiny as an oil spill. Long ago, Annabelle McMartin had hidden the urn of her grandfather’s ashes under that trapdoor. Then, not so very long ago—and with Olive’s unwilling help—Annabelle had taken the urn back out again.
She shook her arms, brushing both the memories and the imaginary insects away.
“What are you doing, Leopold?” she asked, crouching down beside the trapdoor and trying to force her heartbeat to return to normal.
“Standing guard,” answered the cat, puffing out his chest. “The price of safety is eternal vigilance, you know.”
“But there isn’t anything down there anymore.”
Leopold opened his mouth as though he might be about to argue. Then he shut it again. He cleared his throat, lengthily and elaborately, before speaking. “A soldier doesn’t question his orders.”
“But who gave the orders?” asked Olive.
There was a long pause. Leopold, standing at attention, stared straight ahead so hard that his eyes began to cross.
“Never mind,” said Olive quickly, worried that Leopold might hurt himself if he thought any harder. “I just wondered if you would take me into the painting to visit Morton.”
“Hmm,” said the cat. “That would mean leaving my post, miss. It’s against regulations.”
“I see.” Olive nodded. “Well, what if instead of leaving your post, we just stayed here, and maybe . . . went through the trapdoor?”
Leopold gave his head a violent shake. “Absolutely impassible, miss. I mean astutely imparsible. I mean NO.”
Olive knelt down on the chilly stone floor and scratched Leopold between the ears. Slowly, his head began to tilt toward Olive’s hand. “Come on,” Olive wheedled as Leopold’s eyelids slid down to half-mast. “You would be with me the whole time. I just want a peek. A little, teeny-tiny peek. Please?”
Spellbound: The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes