Read Darkwater Online

Authors: Catherine Fisher


catherine fisher

Dial Books

an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


An imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Published by The Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, U.S.A.

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England


First published in the United States 2012 by Dial Books

Published in Great Britain in 2000 by Hodder Children's Books


Copyright © 2000 by Catherine Fisher


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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Fisher, Catherine, date.

Darkwater / Catherine Fisher.

p. cm.

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Sarah sells her soul to reclaim her family's estate and is given 100 years to atone for their sins, but as the bargain nears its end, modern-day Tom, yearning to attend the private

school that Darkwater Hall has become, gets caught up in the bargain.

ISBN 978-1-101-59110-9

[1. Supernatural—Fiction. 2. Private schools—Fiction. 3. Schools—Fiction. 4. Soul—Fiction.

5. Twins—Fiction. 6. Brothers—Fiction. 7. England—Fiction. 8. Great Britain—History—Edward VII, 1901–1910—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.F4995Dav 2012 [Fic]—dc23 2011048063

“The angel of the Covenant you are longing for, yes he is coming, says the Lord.

Who will be able to resist the day of his coming?

Who will be able to stand before him?

For he is like the refiner's fire and the fuller's alkali.

He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold . . .”



n the dream, she hurried down an endless corridor lined with books. Shelf on shelf they towered over her head, leaning out, frowning down, disapproving. She knew they wanted to fall on her and crush her.

Nervous, she walked faster, wishing she had a ladder so she could climb up to them, the thousands of heavy volumes, the folios, encyclopedias, vast flat atlases, thin slivers of poetry. There were books bound in vellum and calfskin, unicorn and dragon skin, some still with wings and sleepy eyes that blinked at her; fastened and locked with clasps and huge keys and chains that encircled them like prisoners. Fat Bibles, expensively crusted with gold, filled a whole shelf, their cameos of dead emperors high and dim and sneering. All out of reach.

Uneasy, she tiptoed now. Even a breath would make them topple, a whisper set off an avalanche of pages, crashing spines.

Then she stopped.

She had come to a thin mirror, squeezed between shelves, and it showed her own sudden reflection. In the grimy glass she was wearing a rich girl's clothes. A blue dress, ruched and glinting with pearls. Her hair was clean and brushed; on her feet, wonderfully frail ivory slippers. Astonished, she stared at herself. A cat came out of the shadows and sat there, eyes bright.

“What do you think of this?” she said to it. “I'm a lady.”

She turned, gathering handfuls of the skirt. It was silk, fine and delicate, but as she touched it, it withered and shriveled until she held only cobwebs, fistfuls of sticky, filthy dust.

Something crashed past her shoulder.

She jerked back, heart pounding.

A book had fallen.

It lay there in the dust. She crouched and opened it, her knees breaking through the disintegrating dress. It was clasped with great hinges like a gate; creaking it wide, she read one enormous word.


Then, in curly letters underneath:

Being the Arte of Transmuting Base and Useless Metal into Gold

The page was dusted with gold. It came off on her fingers, and her hands were shining with it, but before she could turn it over, another book crashed, and then more, a whole stack wobbling and thundering behind her, sending echoes and dust flying into her eyes. The corridor rang with vibrations, all the precarious heaps above her quivering.

And in the mirror, quite suddenly, she saw a boy watching her. He was faint and strange through the grime, and he separated into a double image, so that there were two of him. Then he put his hand out through the glass and caught hold of hers.

She screeched.


Martha was shaking her hard. “For mercy's sake! It's seven o'clock!”

Sarah sat up quickly. Sweat was cold on her. Through the rag nailed over the window a gray light gleamed. “What?” she mumbled.

“You're late! You know what she said! This morning of all mornings!” Martha hurried out. “You won't have time to eat a morsel.”

Shivering, the dream dissolved in seconds, Sarah scrambled out of the trundle bed. Her clothes were flung over a chair; she dragged them on: the harsh gray skirt, the jacket that used to be Martha's son's, the patched shawl. Forcing her feet into icy boots, she laced them desperately, dragged the curtain wide, and ran into the dark kitchen, where Martha pushed a crust and a comb into her hands, holding the baby expertly on her hip. “You'll lose this situation, my girl.”

“I wish I could.” Sarah dragged the comb through her hair. “I could earn more in the workhouse,” she said, pin between teeth.

“Aye. And learn less.”

“I don't get to learn much. And I hate that woman.”

“There's worse,” Martha said darkly. “Besides, it would kill your father. The last of the Trevelyans in a dame school is one thing. In the workhouse is another.” Taking the comb back she said quietly, “He's been awake a while.” Sarah paused, reluctant. Then she went through the door in the corner.

Her father's room was always dim. He lay on his side, facing away from her, as if that helped him to breathe. When he turned, his face was clammy and pale, his hair whiter than the pillow.

“Oh, it's you,” he said.

“I'm off to work.”

“Is it today?” he wheezed.

She cursed herself for telling him. He'd probably been brooding on it all night.

“Is what?”

“You know what.” He struggled to sit up; she had to pull the thin bolster up behind him. “All the grand visitors. All the lords and ladies. Coming to inspect you, look down their noses at you.”

Sarcasm made him cough. She poured the medicine hastily into the blue cup and helped him drink it. When he lay back she said, “They won't look at me. I'm no one. And I'm late.”

“Mind you take no nonsense. They'll know you. If your grandfather hadn't gambled it all away, we'd be the ones being bowed and scraped to, inspecting schools, giving prizes, my lord this, my lady that.”

“Yes, I know,” she said impatiently. He was back on the old subject, the old grievance. It haunted him, always. She edged away.

“It's money, Sarah. That's all they've got. You've got family. A pedigree going back to the Norman kings. They can't say that. Not that fat mayor or that interfering old bag from the Grange . . .”

“Lie still, Papa,” she muttered. “I've got to go.”

As she reached the door he caught his breath. Blue at the lips, he gasped, “I suppose he'll be there.”


“That stinking upstart. The one who stole our house.”

All down the lane she cursed herself with irritated names. It was bad enough that she had to skivvy for Old Mother Hubbard in her paltry little school without him imagining all the gentry of the parish gossiping about her.

“That's Sarah Trevelyan.”


“The ones who lost all their money.”

“The ones who lost Darkwater Hall.”

It was late. She ran, around the corner and into the stone-walled lane that trickled down to the sea, a squall of salty rain slapping her in the face. Leaping every puddle, she climbed the stile and squelched over Martinmas Field, the sheep scattering with low bleats. On the far side the wall had slipped, and she paused on the wobbling stones at the top to catch her breath.

And saw what she saw every morning.

Darkwater Hall rose on the cliff top of High Bluff. Turreted and bleak, its facade of gothic windows caught the blear light and gleamed, facing out to sea. Down its roofs and gables the rain ran in sheets, and the peculiarly grotesque gargoyles that her great-grandfather had insisted on in his eccentric plan spat and grinned evilly into the tangle of gardens below.

From here, she could just see the main door. Outside it, a carriage had pulled up; a sleek, black equipage with two gray horses, each blinkered. They pawed the ground restlessly, and as she watched, a hunched footman came down from the house and opened the carriage door. She watched, intent.

The house—their house—had long been empty. Lord Azrael had arrived suddenly, last week. Martha had gossiped about it to Jack, always stopping when Sarah came in. How her father had found out, she didn't know.

A man stepped down. She was surprised; she'd expected someone old, withered and ugly. But this man was young, dark haired with a neat, barely visible clipped beard. He walked with a limp, and his frockcoat looked expensive. At the top of the steps he paused. Then he turned and looked up.

She ducked, wobbling.

The dark man didn't move. Ignoring the horses and the impatient footman, he stared out across the fields, the wind blowing his hair. As if he knew someone was watching him.

Sarah shivered. Rain ran down her neck. For a second she felt as if she were balancing not on a wall but on the edge of some terrible pit, and if she moved she would plummet, head over heels into darkness.

Then the new owner of Darkwater turned and went inside his house.

The giddiness passed. The stones slewed sideways. She jumped, splashed puddle water up her stocking, and ran. In the distance a cracked bell was clanking relentlessly. By the time she got to the school she was breathless, the crust jammed unnoticed in her pocket, her left foot soaked from a leak in her boot. Praying they hadn't gone in yet, she tore around the great oak tree and flung herself in at the gate.

The courtyard was empty.

“Blast!” she hissed.

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