Simon, Jane and Barney struggled out of St. Austell station beneath a clutter of suitcases, paper bags, raincoats and paperbacks. The crowd from the London train was dwindling about them, swallowed by cars, buses, taxis.
"He did say he'd meet us here, didn't he?"
"'Course be did."
"I can't see him."
"He's a bit late, that's all."
"Great-Uncle Merry is never late."
"We ought to find out where the Trewissick bus goes from, just in case."
"No, there he is, I see him. I told you he was never late.' Barney jumped up and down, waving. Then he paused. "But he's not on his own. There's a man with him." A faint note of outrage crept into his voice. "And a boy."
A car hooted peremptorily once, twice, three times outside the Stantons' house.
"Here we go," said Uncle Bill, seizing his holdall and Will's knapsack.
Will hastily kissed his parents good-by, staggering under the enormous bag of sandwiches, thermos flasks and cold drinks that his mother dumped into his arms.
"Behave yourself," she said.
"I don't suppose Merry will get out of the car," said Bill to her as they trooped down the drive.
"Very shy character, pay no attention. But be's a good friend. You'll like him, Will."
Will said, "I'm sure I shall."
At the end of the drive, an enormous elderly Daimler stood waiting.
"Well, well," said Will's father respectfully.
"And I was worrying about space!" said Bill. "I might have known he'd drive something like this. Well, good-by, people. Here, Will, you can get in front."
In a flurry of farewells they climbed into the dignified car; a large muffler-wrapped figure sat hunched at the wheel, topped by a terrible hairy brown cap.
"Merry," said Uncle Bill as they moved off, "this is my nephew and godson. Will Stanton, Merriman Lyon."
The driver tossed aside his dreadful cap, and a mop of white hair sprang into shaggy freedom. Shadowed dark eyes glanced sideways at Will out of an arrogant, hawk-nosed profile.
"Greetings, Old One," said a familiar voice into Will's mind.
"It's marvellous to see you," Will said silently, happily.
"Good morning, Will Stanton," Merriman said.
"How do you do, sir," said Will.
There was considerable conversation on the drive from Buckinghamshire to Comwall, particularly after the picnic lunch, when Will's uncle fell asleep and slumbered peacefully all the rest of the way.
Will said at last, "And Simon and Jane and Barney have no idea at all that the Dark timed its theft of the grail to match the making of the Greenwitch?"
"They have never heard of the Greenwitch," Merriman said. "You will have the privilege of telling them. Casually, of course."
"Hmm," Will said. He was thinking of something else. "I'd feel a lot happier if only we knew what shape the Dark will take."
"An old problem. With no solution." Merriman glanced sideways at him, with one bristly white eyebrow raised. "We have only to wait and see. And I think we shall not wait for long...."
Fairly late in the afternoon, the Daimler hummed its noble way into the forecourt of the railway station at St. Austell, in Cornwall. Standing in a small pool of luggage Will saw a boy a little older than himself, wearing a school blazer and an air of self-conscious authority; a girl about the same height, with long hair tied in a pony-tail, and a worried expression; and a small boy with a mass of blond, almost white hair, sitting placidly on a suitcase watching their approach.
"If they are to know nothing about me," he said to Merriman in the Old Ones' speech of the mind, "they will dislike me extremely, I think."
"That may very well be true," said Merriman. "But not one of us has any feelings that are of the least consequence, compared to the urgency of this quest."
Will sighed, "Watch for the Greenwitch," he said.
Copyright © 1974 by Susan Cooper
Excerpted from Greenwitch by Susan Cooper Copyright © 1985 by Susan Cooper. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.