Cora Ravenwing, village scapegoat, is the first child whom narrator Becky Stokes meets when her family moves outside London in the mid-1950s; and her reflections deftly pick up the undercurrents of gossip, hostility, and social pretension that power the story of their year's troubled friendship. Being a newcomer and common-sensical besides, Becky refuses to believe that motherless, nature-loving Cora is a ""Devil Child""--any more than she believes that meddling cleaning woman Mrs. Briggs, Cora's accuser, is a witch. What does it signify that Cora haunts the cemetery where her mother is buried and her father works as a gravedigger? But family pressures and the general ostracism of Cora force Becky to keep their meetings a secret. Then their rendezvous point, in an air-raid shelter, is discovered, and the girls are forbidden to see one another. They take to sneaking out at night; Becky's bed is found empty; and the ensuing hue and cry leads to horrified discovery of the two girls asleep on the village green. The Ravenwings depart for a new, untainted home; and Becky, too, will be unburdened by starting at a new school. Now, looking back, she can speak philosophically: ""My best friends at Okington were Hermione Phillips, Barbara Foster and Susan Spenser. . . I'm not friendly with any of them any more, which sometimes seems regrettable but isn't surprising in the light of events all those years ago."" And one feels that, obliquely, she is speaking most of all to Cora. A sensitive, mystery-tinged portrayal of social tensions.