Authors: Cynthia DeFelice
The Ghost and Mrs. Hobbs
Also by Cynthia DeFelice
The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker
Under the Same Sky
The Missing Manatee
Bringing Ezra Back
The Ghost Mysteries
The Ghost of Fossil Glen
The Ghost and Mrs. Hobbs
The Ghost of Cutler Creek
The Ghost of Poplar Point
Casey in the Bath
illustrated by Chris L. Demarest
Old Granny and the Bean Thief
illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith
One Potato, Two Potato
illustrated by Andrea U'Ren
FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX
An Imprint of Macmillan
THE GHOST AND MRS. HOBBS. Copyright Â© 2001 by Cynthia C. DeFelice.
All rights reserved. Distributed in Canada by H.B. Fenn and Company Ltd.
Printed in July 2010 in the United States of America by R. R. Donnelley &
Sons Company, Harrisonburg, Virginia. For information, address Square Fish,
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
Square Fish and the Square Fish logo are trademarks of Macmillan and are used by Farrar, Straus and Giroux under license from Macmillan.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
DeFelice, Cynthia C.
The ghost and Mrs. Hobbs / Cynthia DeFelice.
Â Â Â Â p. cm.
Summary: Hindered by a fight with her friend Dub and a series of mysterious fires, eleven-year-old Allie investigates the fire seventeen years earlier which claimed the lives of the husband and infant son of a school cafeteria worker, as well as the handsome young man whose ghost asks Allie for help.
[1. GhostsâFiction. 2. ArsonâFiction. 3. JealousyâFiction. 4. SchoolsâFiction. 5. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Title.
PZ7.D3597 Ge 2001
Originally published in the United States by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Square Fish logo designed by Filomena Tuosto
Designed by Judy Lanfredi
First Square Fish Edition: 2010
10Â Â 9Â Â 8Â Â 7Â Â 6Â Â 5Â Â 4Â Â 3Â Â 2Â Â 1
who wanted a touch of romance!
The Ghost and Mrs. Hobbs
Allie Nichols knew she was dreaming, but that didn't make the feeling of being trapped in a burning building any less terrifying. Flames surrounded her, scorching her skin, licking at her clothing and hair, sucking the oxygen from the room and from her lungs until she couldn't breathe. Frantic, blinded by smoke and coughing, she crawled across an endless floor toward a door. When she got there, the doorknob was too hot to touch. Someone was on the other side of that door, someone who would die unless she got through. But she couldn't, she couldn't. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't reach the door, and it was going to be too late. And thenâoh no, no, no!âthe ceiling came crashing down and she was trapped, and then it
Allie woke up with a sob, drenched in sweat, the taste of ashes in her mouth. She lay still, willing her
heart to stop pounding, but the nightmarish urgency and the feelings of fear and desperation lingered. Not wanting to be alone, but not wanting to disturb her parents, either, she went down the hall to her little brother Michael's room and crawled into bed with him.
“Mmmm,” he murmured sleepily.
“Okay if I get in with you for a while, Mikey?” Allie whispered.
Allie snuggled up to the curve of his warm, little four-year-old body and took a deep breath. What a dreadful dream! At first it had seemed to be happening to her. But then, in the strange logic of nightmares, she had felt as if she were watching and it was someone else who was struggling toward that door.
And who was on the other side, waiting to be rescued? She couldn't imagine, and at last grew tired of trying. Concentrating instead on the soft, even rhythm of Michael's breathing, she finally fell back to sleep.
The vividness and power of the dream were still with her, though, when she woke up to find Michael staring at her curiously. “How come you're here?” he asked.
“Don't you remember when I came in?”
Michael shook his head. “Did you have a bad dream?” he asked.
“About the tree monster?” Michael asked, his eyes growing big and round.
“No,” said Allie, giving him a hug. “Not that dumb old monster. Remember? I told him he better not show up in your dreams or mine ever again
Michael giggled. “Oh yeah. Dumb monster!”
“My dream is all gone now,” Allie said, lying. Michael had a powerful imagination, just as she did. Sometimes he scared himself with his own fantasies. She didn't want to get him started again on his old, bad dreams about the tree outside his window coming to grab him while he slept. “Come on. Let's get some breakfast.”
The dream stayed in the back of Allie's mind while she and Michael ate their cereal.
When their parents joined them in the kitchen, Michael announced proudly, “Allie was in my bed this morning.”
“Trouble sleeping, sweetie?” Allie's mother asked with concern.
“A little,” Allie answered evasively. She had been trying especially hard not to give her parents any reason to worry about her, since she'd nearly died during a class field trip to Fossil Glen just three weeks before.
Allie had never figured out quite how to explain to
them that the whole Fossil Glen episode had come about because she'd been helping a
. Now that some time had gone by, it seemed even harder to bring up the subject. Allie was afraid that her parents would start worrying again that she didn't know the difference between fantasy and reality.
It was asking a lot to expect them to believe that the ghost of an eleven-year-old girl named Lucy Stiles, who had been murdered, had come to Allie for help in proving it. Allie didn't know if
be able to accept it if it hadn't happened to her.
The only person who knew the whole story was her best friend, Dub Whitwell. Thank goodness for Dub, she thought, not for the first time. If it wasn't for him, she might worry that she was crazy.
As Allie walked to school, her frightful dream replayed in her mind. She tried to concentrate during language arts, but the dream kept drifting through her thoughts, accompanied by the faint smell of smoke.
She was finally roused from her reverie when Mr. Henry announced that the school's annual Elders Day celebration was coming up the following week. A groan rose from the class.
Mr. Henry just smiled. “I know, I know,” he said calmly. “You've done Elders Day in May of every school year since kindergarten. And you're tired of it. So I was thinking that instead of having each of you
bring a special older friend to school for the day, as you've done before, we'd do something different this year.”
Joey Fratto let out a cheer. Karen Laver muttered, “This better be good,” but, as always, she made her comment too soft for Mr. Henry to hear.
Allie sat up and listened attentively. Mr. Henry was the best sixth-grade teacher in the school, the best teacher she had ever had. He had a way of making almost every subject fun and interesting. No matter what Karen said, Allie had a feeling Mr. Henry's plan for Elders Day was going to mean excitement.
“So, Dub, who are you going to interview?” Allie asked. She and her classmates were eating lunch in the cafeteria, following Mr. Henry's announcement that the kids would interview an older person and give an oral presentation.
Dub had just taken a huge bite of his sub sandwich. He struggled to chew and swallow so he could answer, but before he had a chance, Karen spoke up. “I don't know why we can't just skip stupid Elders Day now that we're in sixth grade,” she said sulkily. “I mean, enough already.”
“Well, at least Mr. Henry's letting us do something interesting this time,” said Allie.
“Big deal,” Karen replied. “It's just as boring.”
Allie shrugged. Karen thought everything was boring.
“As far as I'm concerned,” said Dub, “
we do will be an improvement over last year.”
Allie laughed, along with several other kids who had been in Dub's fifth-grade class to witness the previous year's fiasco. Like Allie, Dub had no grandparents living conveniently nearby, so he had been stuck with bringing his neighbor, old Louie Howell, to school for Elders Day. The trouble was that Louie was almost totally deaf.
Dub groaned. “That was a real nightmare.”
A real white hair, you say?
” Imitating Louie Howell, Joey shouted in a high, whining voice, “
Who's got white hair? For the love of Myrtle, speak up, young man, and stop your mumbling!
Everyone at the lunch table cracked up. Dub said, “Compared to that, picking an elderly person to interview will be a piece of cake. And here's some free advice: Pick somebody who can hear your questions.”