The curtain opens to the moving-in bustle and grumbling of four children and the old "Auntie" who has raised them and whom they are now protecting from being "sent away" as a consequence of her klepto- and pyromaniacal excursions. The family has rented a cottage on the remote Winter Island, which (they now learn from Mrs. MacRoy, the black-shrouded old granny who ferries them over) is reputed to vanish in darkness every seven years. During the six years that elapse before the next disappearance is due, no one seems to age -- except for Sedna, a new baby Auntie picks up on the island, causing the others to suspect (correctly) that they too have been snitched, nor orphaned as Auntie had claimed. Then Sedna vanishes, to reappear as the old ferry womman who is now revealed as the goddess of winter. Two of the children, concerned only with themselves, are killed (offstage) trying to escape the island, but Mrs. MacRoy assures the others that the coming darkness will bring them truth and vision and will maybe even "unriddle some great secret for mankind." Joan Aiken is of course an expert at manipulating ominous vibrations which can be expected to thrill both actors and audience. But almost the whole play seems to be setting the scene for a hair-raising finale which Aiken then rejects in favor of Mrs. MacRoy's vague pseudo-profundities. However lulling her message might be for our time, it's a disappointment that this pastmistress of melodramatic novels has come up with so undramatic a play.