She wears strange heavy makeup and raggedy patchwork clothes that trail in the mud. Mrs. Pacey in the village calls her ""that sea-witch woman,"" the milkman warns the children to steer clear of her isolated cottage, and Meg overhears Father predicting a ""spurious ghost"" there. So what is Meg to think, with her parents away from their summer place overnight and the au pair girl taking off close behind them, when she finds little brother Maxie inside a ring of candles in Mrs. Jarvis' living room, all dressed in white and sitting in a trancelike stillness? Well, it doesn't take long to learn that Mrs. Jarvis is simply painting Maxie's picture, having rescued him from the water when Meg, fearing him drowned, was seeking him out in the wrong places. With all the tension and scary uncertainties thus resolved not much more than halfway through, Robinson has to carry the rest of the story on the coziness of the children's unorthodox overnight with the eccentric but kindly old woman. It holds up surprisingly well, focusing on Meg's conflicting feelings toward her little brother and, to a lesser extent, on Mrs. Jarvis' sympathy for the two of them. Mother's return with a pregnancy confirmation, dispelling some background unease about a rumored doctor's appointment, might be one good thing too many for those who had hoped for a witch story; but most readers will probably share Meg's pleasure with the way everything works out.