Title: The Shadow Guests
Publisher: Delacorte Press, New York
Publication Date: 1980
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Very Good +
Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine
Signed: Signed by Author
Edition: First Edition.
First U.S.A. printing, stated. Signed by the author on the half-title page: "Many happy hours of reading . . . / from Joan Aiken." The prolific British novelist (1924-2004) and daughter of writer Conrad Aiken was a fan of many genres, from mystery and horror to alternate history. Quarter-bound in lime-green paper covered boards with a yellow cloth, metallic green solid-and-shadow-printed spine. Book is tight, square, and unmarked; corners sharp, spine ends lightly bumped; light foxing to top page edges. The dust jacket is not price-clipped (original price $7.95); corner crease to back flap. Brodart protected. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 002666
Synopsis: A young boy arrives at his cousin's home in England unprepared for the supernatural furor his presence unleashes.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Shadow Guests
1 MEETING Nobody was at the airport to meet him. One of the stewardesses had told him that there was a place called a Rendezvous Area where you could go and wait if your friends hadn't turned up when the plane landed. So that was where he went. It was next to the information desk, a place with a set of plush-covered benches striped in pink and brown with a few anxious people sitting on them and gazing about in every direction. But Cosmo preferred to stand, leaning against the trolley that held his luggage--two cases, a carry-on bag, and a tennis racket. He stared at the mass of people, streaming up and down the airport concourse, and wondered how he would ever know which one was looking for him. "Cousin Eunice will probably come to meet you herself," his father had said. "But I suppose she might be giving alecture or tutoring somebody that day; then she'd have to arrange for someone else to come." Could any of these women be Cousin Eunice? A fat blond one with pouches under her eyes: he hoped not. A thin dark one in a corduroy windcheater: she looked nice, but she walked straight past. A younger one--no, she had a girl of about six with her. Cousin Eunice was not married and had no children. "Have I met her? Was she there when we visited Uncle Ted that time?" He remembered the place--most clearly and hauntingly he remembered it--not the house, but the way a fold of hazelwood ran down to the river, and a brook, where he and Mark had built a dam, and a deep dark millpond and a weir, and a footbridge by which you went across to the island where the mill was. A huge field shaped like a half moon. If anything could cheer him at the moment--bat nothing could, really--it would be the prospect of living at Courtoys Mill. "No, Cousin Eunice wasn't there at that time," his father had said. "She was away at Cambridge, studying." There had been something bitten back about his voice--the way people talk when they are concealing things considered unsuitable for the young. His father had talked like that most of the time in the last month or two. So--was there something peculiar about Cousin Eunice? Surely not; his father seemed to put a lot of trust in her. "She'll look after you all right and get you all the stuff you need for school," he had said. "And I'll come to England as soon as I can." But where was Cousin Eunice now? He shivered, feelinghorribly isolated all of a sudden. Thirty hours in the plane was no joke--and then to have nobody meet you-- People were rushing up and down the concourse like lemmings, carrying their luggage or pushing it on trolleys. The loudspeaker added to the frantic atmosphere by a constant stream of urgent appeals. "This is your last call for Air France flight four-oh-three to Marseilles now at gate seven. Will Mr. Panizelos on Olympic flight nine-nine-two please go at once to gate ten. Will Doctor Creasey, recently arrived from Los Angeles on Pan Am three-five-three, please go to the airport information desk. Will the driver meeting Captain Wang Tao Ping please go to the information desk." A gray-haired man hurried up to the plush benches, and the worried girl with the enormous blue rucksack joyfully jumped up and ran to hug him. Many of the faces that had begun to seem familiar were gone, they were being replaced by others. I have been waiting here longer than anybody else, Cosmo thought. The harried woman, the fat impatient bald man, the girl with the baby had all gone. A new series of waiting, expectant people had replaced them. Cosmo longed for a huge drink of cold water. The last meal served on the plane had been a disgusting sweet, stale sticky bun and a half-cup of lukewarm coffee tasting like liquid that cardboard had been boiled in; it was far from thirst-quenching. But there was no refreshment bar in this part of the airport. Presumably the people who built the place had thought that anybody getting off a plane wouldn't want food or drink; they would just want to hurry away. Ma had said once that thinking about lemons would helpyou not to be thirsty. He tried it. But the lemons refused to become real in his mind; instead, he heard Ma's voice, laughing, persuasive; and that was unfortunate, because a terrible, choking lump swelled in his throat, making the thirst even more of a torment. A plump woman scurried by, calling, "Bert, Percy, Oscar, come along. Hurry up--don't dawdle!" She was pushing a trolley stacked high with massive cases and bundles and duffel bags. How could she possibly manage it? And how could she possibly have called her children Bert, Percy, and Oscar--three of the ugliest names in the English language? Cosmo was not particularly fond of his own name, but he did feel it was infinitely better than any of those three. He turned to see if the straggling sons of the fat woman deserved their dismal names and was obliged to admit that she had chosen suitably. Bert--if Bert was the biggest--slouched sulkily along, the shock of sawdust-colored hair flopping over his acned face not at all concealing its disagreeable expression; he was drinking out of a can of lemonade and didn't offer to help his mother push the luggage trolley, although he was at least a head taller than she. Oscar was a horrible little imp with tight yellow curls and fat cheeks covered in sticky grubbiness from the ice-lollipop he was sucking; in his other hand he held a spaceman's trident which he poked at the legs of anyone who came near him. Percy, the middle one, was not much better; he had glasses and a peevish expression; he was eating out of a bag of potato chips and was reading a motor magazine as he walked, taking no notice of his mother's anxiouscries. Poor thing, Cosmo thought, fancy having children like that; but it was probably her own fault for the way she'd brought them up. "Will the driver meeting Mrs. Mohammed Ghazni please go to the information desk?" The arrivals indicator clicked and whirred; his own plane, Sydney to London, which had been up at the top, marked ON TIME and LANDED had been replaced by the flight from San Francisco, sixty minutes late. How would Cousin Eunice know that his flight had arrived? Presumably she would ask at the desk. Then it occurred to him that he could have a message broadcast. What should it say? "Will Cousin Eunice Doom, supposed to be meeting Cosmo Curtoys, please come to the information desk?" But if it were not Cousin Eunice who had come to meet him? "Will the friends meeting Cosmo Curtoys ..." "Friends" sounded wrong. He had no friends over here; it seemed like presuming on people's good nature to call them his friends in advance. He had a sudden horrible vision of Percy, Bert, and Oscar, with malevolent looks on their faces, charging up to the information desk where he stood nervously waiting. "You Cosmo Curtoys? Well, we're here to meet you, but we ain't your friends, we can tell you that from the start!" After a good deal of hesitation he put his problem to the girl at the desk, and she solved it at once. "Will Miss Eunice Doom, or the person supposed to be meeting Cosmo Curtoys--" She pronounced it wrong, because he had showed her his passport, in spite of the fact that he had clearly said Curtis--"please come to the information desk." Having his name called out like that, even pronounced wrongly, made him feel as if everybody must be staring at him, but of course they were not; they were all far too worried about catching their planes or finding whoever they were supposed to meet; and it did not produce Cousin Eunice either. "Had she far to come?" the information desk girl asked. "I think about eighty miles-from near Oxford." "Oh, well, I'd give her a while yet before you start to worry." And the girl went back to all the other people who were fighting for her attention. Cosmo began thinking about Cousin Eunice again, trying to remember what he knew about her. Younger than Father, but still quite old, in her thirties. A professor of mathematics--that was a bit daunting. Suppose, when he was living with her, that she kept pouncing on him. "Hey, Cosmo, quick--the square root of ninety-three! Multiply eighteen by twenty-four!" But Father said mathematicians didn't think in those terms at all anymore--it was all much more stretchy. And the dull jobs like square roots were all done by calculators. Rather a pity, in a way: Cosmo enjoyed, when he was in bed at night, letting numbers make patterns in his mind. Take the three-times table, for instance: It went three-six-nine-two-five-eight-one-four-seven zero before starting up again at three; much more interesting than dull old five-times, which just went five-zero-five-zero. But why did three-times have ten changes before coming back to base, what governed these patterns? Seven-times had ten changes, six-times had five--but then four-times and eight-times both had five as well. It seemed odd that they weren't all different. Anyway, back to Cousin Eunice ... A mathematician really ought to be tall and skinny with a long nose and glasses and gray hair scraped back in a knob. Like a wicked governess. But Father had said she wasn't in the least like that. He seemed to find it hard to describe her, though--and that was odd--because he had grown up with her at Courtoys Place before it was sold to pay death duties. Death duties ... you would think that once you had died, you had no more duties. To Cosmo, duties meant wash hair, teeth, face, make bed, put pajamas away, help with the breakfast dishes ... "Have you boys done your morning duties?" Ma would call, putting on a severe tone. "All right, then you can go out." But suppose nobody was sure if you had died? Did you have to pay death duties then? Lost in thought, he took several minutes to realize that somebody was standing in front of him. She was surveying him doubtfully. ...
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