I found them in the kitchen having tea and talking softly. “How did you ever end up in a boring little town in the mountains of West Virginia?” Dad was asking Moura.
She smiled. “It’s a long story, Hugh.” Dad reached for her hand. “I love long stories.” When I cleared my throat loudly, Moura looked at me. She’d finally removed her glasses. They lay on the table beside her cup, casting colored shadows on the tablecloth. Her eyes were large and a light greenish gray, the pupils ringed with yellow. “Have a seat, Jen.” Moura motioned toward a chair. Her lips curved briefly into a smile that didn’t reach her strange eyes. Somehow she made me feel unwelcome without being anything but polite.
Reluctantly, I slid into the seat and sat there tongue-tied with discomfort, the third person, totally unnecessary. Dad patted my hand, but I had a feeling he wished I hadn’t interrupted the conversation. Cadoc lay at Moura’s feet, his head resting on her sandals. When he saw me, he raised his head and stared with eyes as pale and cold as his mistress’s. Although he didn’t growl, I moved my chair away, ready to run if he so much as opened his mouth. I was glad Tink hadn’t followed me downstairs.
Moura patted the dog’s head. “Cadoc won’t hurt you, Jen,” she said. “Come closer.” Feeling childish, I forced myself to do as she said. Her perfume was strong, cloying. It made my head ache just to sit near her. And her eyes . . . When she looked at me, I wished she’d kept her glasses on.
“Cadoc,” Moura said, “this is Jen.” The dog sat up and extended a paw for me to shake. I took it gingerly, feeling the hard claws housed in soft fur and velvety footpads. “Pleased to meet you,” I lied.
The introduction finished, I backed away from Moura and her dog, relishing the distance from both of them. “Isn’t he amazing?” Dad asked me.
“Moura has trained that dog perfectly.” I nodded, but I was glad to see Cadoc lie down again. “Perhaps we could take a walk with Cadoc one fine day,” Moura suggested to me. “I know a lovely path by the river.” Dad went on for a while about how much fun it would be to ramble through the woods with the scariest dog I‘d ever seen. Of course, he didn’t think Cadoc was scary. No, he was Moura’s dog and just as perfect as she was.
During a lull in the conversation, I asked Moura what she thought of Great-Uncle Thaddeus’s things.
She smiled. “The house is full of treasures—paintings, sculpture, porcelain, silver, old books. If your father wants to sell his great-uncle’s possessions, he’ll be a rich man indeed.
Why, the dining-room furniture alone is worth at least fifteen thousand dollars.” I stared at her, absolutely amazed.
“Who on earth would pay that much for old furniture?” “Collectors,” Moura said, “dealers, maybe even a museum. The set is solid walnut, handcrafted, and in perfect condition.” I turned to Dad. “Are you going to sell it?” He shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. We just moved in, Jen. I want to live with Uncle Thaddeus’s things for a while before I make any decisions.” When Dad paused to sip his tea, Moura turned to me, her eyes keen. “I was expecting to find something I was told your uncle owned,” she said slowly, “but I didn’t see it anywhere.” “What were you looking for?” I asked.
“A glass globe, about this big.” Moura cupped her hands to show me. “It’s decorated with a swirling pattern of colors. There’s a little spout on one side and a loop at the top so it can be hung in a window.” While Moura described my globe, I drank my tea silently. I didn’t dare look at my father for fear I’d give myself away. The globe was mine. I’d found it, and I wasn’t going to give it to anyone—especially Moura.
“Some people call it a sun catcher,” Moura went on, “but its original name was witch catcher. In the old days, superstitious people believed the pretty pattern in the glass had the power to draw witches and other evil creatures through the spout and into the globe. Trapped inside, the witch was powerless.” “Is that right?” Dad leaned toward Moura, amused by her story. More worried than amused, I studied the tea leaves in my cup, wishing I could tell my own fortune. I was haunted by the girl I’d seen in the painting, her hands pressed against what I’d thought was a glass wall. Had Great-Uncle Thaddeus captured a witch in that globe? Was she at this very moment hidden in my closet?
Moura smiled her strange smile. “Well, it’s certainly true that the globes were called witch catchers, and people hung them in their windoows to protect themselves.” She stared for a moment into her own teacup, her long slender fingers curved around the fragile china. “Today witch catchers are valued for their beauty, but I find their history fascinating. Suppose the old superstitions are true and witttttches actually are held captive in those pretty globes? Suppose you broke one and the witch escaped?” As she spoke, Moura gazed directly at me. Her voice was light, even playful, but the expression in her eyes was anything but humorous.
I shrugged and looked away. If Moura thought she could scare me into confessing I had the trap, she was mistaken.
“Nonsense,” Dad said with a laugh.
“These days, you won’t find witches roaming the countryside just waiting to be trapped in glass globes.” “You’d be surprised,” Moura said in a voice so low Dad didn’t seem to hear. But I did. Maybe because she was looking at me, not my father. Despite myself, I shivered. Was she warning me? Or just trying to scare me?
“I have a client who collects witch catchers,” Moura went on in a normal voice. “He’s most anxious to acquire another. I know for a fact he’s willing to pay several hundred dollars for the one your uncle owned.” Her head swung toward me, and her long hair swirled around her pale face. “Have you seen the globe, Jen?” Taken by surprise, I shook my head.
Near my feet Cadoc stirred and sighed, his breath warm on my leg.
“We haven’t explored the tower,” Dad said. “Maybe Uncle Thaddeus kept it up there.” “There’s nothing in the tower,” I said.
“You told me so yourself.” “Would you mind if I had a look?” Moura asked. “We’ll all go,” Dad said. “Jen’s dying to explore the place.” “But you told me it’s not safe,” I reminded him. “You said it was about to fall down.” Dad laughed. “Goodness, Jen, I didn’t think you believed anything I told you.” He meant it as a joke, but his words stung. Sarcasm wasn’t Dad’s style. “I’m sure the tower’s perfectly safe,” Moura said, apparently missing both the joke and the sarcasm.
Getting to her feet, she reached for her glasses. Reluctantly, I followed Dad and Moura outside. Cadoc ran gracefully ahead, his long, lithe body stretching as if his bones w...