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Newbery Medalist Avi weaves one of his most suspenseful and scary tales-about a ghost who has to be seen to be believed and must be kept from carrying out a horrifying revenge. The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpetine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society photographer, he thinks of his trade as a scientific art. But when wealthy society matron Mrs. Frederick Von Macht orders a photographic portrait, strange things begin to happen. Horace's first real photographs reveal a frightful likeness: it's the image of the Von Machts' dead daughter, Eleanora. Pegg, the Von Machts' black servant girl, then leads him to the truth about who Eleanora really was and how she actually died. Joined in friendship, Pegg and Horace soon realize that his photographs are evoking both Eleanora's image and her ghost. Eleanora returns, a vengeful wraith intent on punishing those who abused her. Rich in detail, full of the magic of early photography, here is a story about the shadows, visible and invisible, that are always lurking near.
The Seer of Shadows
It was an October morning in the year 1872, and New York City's air was so befogged with white mist and dark smoke that I could barely see across the street. All the same I was attending to my daily chore of sweeping our small front court with its painted sign:
Enoch Middleditch Society Photographer
Chancing to look up, I was startled to see a black girl standing just beyond our low iron gate. It was as if she had just stepped out of the haze, dressed in her somber cotton servant's garb. A tiny wisp of curly black hair poked out from beneath her white cap. Though clearly she was a servant, her posture was upright, quite proud, and not at all deferential. I judged her to be about the same age as I, fourteen; but her smooth face, round and dark, seemed devoid of emotion until I noticed her eyes: They were full of a deep and brooding intensity.
My first thought was that she was looking at me, but then I realized it was our sign that held her attention.
"May I help you?" I asked.
She turned her gaze upon me. "Who are you?"
The question, asked so bluntly, was unexpected. "I'm Mr. Middleditch's apprentice."
"Does he make portraits?"
"Portraits, cartes de visite, and studies."
"My mistress, Mrs. Frederick Von Macht, requires a portrait."
"Then you've come to the right place."
"Good," said the girl. "She will be at your door tomorrow, at two."
Though surprised by her presumption, I said, "I'll tell my employer," perfectly aware that Mr. Middleditch had no pressing matters to attend to. Business was anything but lively.
With a curt nod the girl turned and walked away, vanishing into the mist as eerily as she had appeared.
Not only did I wonder where she'd come from and gone to, I was uncertain whether to believe her or not. But knowing it would be a good thing if her mistress did come for a sitting, I put aside such questions and hurried into our rooms to inform Mr. Middleditch that he actually had a customer.
Still, there was something very unsettling about the girl, so much so that I could not get her out of my mind. Was it the way she'd suddenly appeared and disappeared into the mist? Was it the tone of her voice? Was it the brooding look in her eyes?
That said, I shall be the first to admit there was nothing about her appearance to foretell the extraordinary events that were to follow.
Excerpted from The Seer of Shadows by Avi All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.