The Game of the Be-Witchments

by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

We like our Aunt Esta very much because she doesn't like us.

That is—she doesn't like us specially. Toys are what our Aunt Esta likes specially. Our Aunt Esta invents toys. She invents them for a store in New York. Our Aunt Esta is thirty years old with very serious hair. I don't know how old our other relatives are—except Rosalee! And Carol! And myself!

My sister Rosalee is seventeen years old. And a Betrothess. Her Betrother lives in Cuba. He eats bananas. My brother Carol is eleven. He has no voice in his throat. But he eats anything. I myself am only nine. But with very long legs. Our Father and Mother have no age. They are just tall.

There was a man. He was very rich. He had a little girl with sick bones. She had to sit in a wheel chair all day long and be pushed around by a Black Woman. He asked our Aunt Esta to invent a Game for her. The little girl's name was Posie.

Our Aunt Esta invented a Game. She called it the Game of the Be-Witchments. It cost two hundred dollars and forty-three cents. The Rich Man didn't seem to mind the two hundred dollars. But he couldn't bear the forty-three cents. He'd bear even that, though, he said, if it would only be sure to work!

"Work?" said our Aunt Esta. "Why of course it will work!" So just the first minute she got it invented she jammed it into her trunk and dashed up to our house to see if it would!

It worked very well. Our Aunt Esta never wastes any time. Not even kissing. Either coming or going. We went right up to her room with her. It was a big trunk. The Expressman swore a little. My Father tore his trouser-knee. My Mother began right away to re-varnish the scratches on the bureau.

It took us most all the morning to carry the Game down-stairs. We carried it to the Dining Room. It covered the table. It covered the chairs. It strewed the sideboard. It spilled over on the floor. There was a pair of white muslin angel wings all spangled over with silver and gold! There was a fairy wand! There was a shining crown! There was a blue satin clock! There was a yellow plush suit and swishy-tail all painted sideways in stripes like a tiger! There was a most furious tiger head with whisk-broom whiskers! There was a green frog's head! And a green frog's suit! There was a witch's hat and cape! And a hump on the back! There were bows and arrows! There were boxes and boxes of milliner's flowers! There were strings of beads! And yards and yards of dungeon chains made out of silver paper! And a real bugle! And red Chinese lanterns! And—and everything!

The Rich Man came in a gold-colored car to see it work. When he saw the Dining Room he sickened. He bit his cigar.

"My daughter Posie is ten years old," he said. "What I ordered for her was a Game!—not a Trousseau!"

Our Aunt Esta shivered her hands. She shrugged her shoulders.

"You don't understand," she said. "This is no paltry Toy to be exhausted and sickened of in a single hour! This is a real Game! Eth-ical! Psycho-psycho—logical! Unendingly diverting! Hour after hour! Day after day!—Once begun, you understand, it's never over!"

The Rich Man looked at his watch.

"I have to be in Chicago a week from tomorrow!" he said.

Somebody giggled. It couldn't have been Rosalee, of course. Because Rosalee is seventeen. And, of course, it wasn't Carol. So it must have been me.

The Rich Man gave an awful glare.

"Who are these children?" he demanded.

Our Aunt Esta swallowed.

"They are my—my Demonstrators," she said.

"'Demonstrators?'" sniffed the Rich Man. He glared at Carol. "Why don't you speak?" he demanded.

My mother made a rustle to the door-way.

"He can't," she said. "Our son Carol is dumb."

The Rich Man looked very queer.

"Oh, I say," he fumbled and stuttered. "Oh, I say—! After all there's no such great harm in a giggle. My little girl Posie cries all the time. All the time, I mean! Cries and cries and cries!—It's a fright!"

"She wouldn't," said our Aunt Esta, "if she had a game like this to play with."

"Eh?" said the Rich Man.

"She could wear the Witch's hideous cape!" said our Aunt Esta. "And the queer pointed black hat! And the scraggly gray wig! And the great horn-rimmed spectacles! And the hump on her back! And——"

"My daughter Posie has Ti—Titian red curls," said the Rich Man coldly. "And the most beautiful brown eyes that mortal man has ever seen! And a skin so fair that——"

"That's why I think it would rest her so," said our Aunt Esta, "to be ugly outside—instead of inside for a while."

"Eh?" said the Rich Man.

He glared at our Aunt Esta.

Our Aunt Esta glared at him.

Out in the kitchen suddenly the most beautiful smell happened. The smell was soup! Spiced Tomato Soup! It was as though the whole stove had bloomed! My Father came to the door. "What's it all about?" he said. He saw the Rich Man. The Rich Man saw him. "Why, how do you do?" said my Father. "Why, how do you do?" said the Rich Man. They bowed. There was no room on the Dining Room table to put the dishes. There was no room anywhere for anything. We had to eat in the kitchen. My Mother made griddle cakes. The Rich Man stirred the batter. He seemed to think it was funny. Carol had to sit on a soap-box. Our Aunt Esta sat on the edge of a barrel with her stockings swinging. It made her look not so strict. "All the same," worried the Rich Man, "I don't see just why you fixed the price at two hundred dollars and forty-three cents?—Why not two hundred dollars and forty-five cents? Or even the round sum two hundred and one dollars?"

Our Aunt Esta looked pretty mad. "I will be very glad—I'm sure," she said, "to submit an itemized bill."

"Oh, nonsense!" said the Rich Man. "It was just your mental processes I was wondering about.—The thing, of course, is worth any money—if it works!"

"If it works?" cried our Aunt Esta.

The Rich Man jumped up and strode fiercely to the Dining Room door.

Our Aunt Esta strode fiercely after him, only littler. Our Aunt Esta is very little.

The Rich Man waved his arms at everything,—the boxes,—the bundles,—the angel-wings,—the cloaks,—the suits,—the Chinese Lanterns.

"All the same, the thing is perfectly outrageous!—The size of it!—The extent! No house would hold it!"

"It isn't meant," said our Aunt Esta, "to be played just in the house.—It's meant to be played on a sunny porch opening out on a green lawn—so that there's plenty of room for all Posie's little playmates to go swarming in and out."

The Rich Man looked queer. He gave a little shiver.

"My little daughter Posie hasn't got any playmates," he said. "She's too cross."

Our Aunt Esta stood up very straight. Two red spots flamed in her cheeks.

"You won't be able to keep the children away from her," she said, "after they once begin to play this game!"

"You really think so?" cried the Rich Man.

Out in the kitchen my Father looked at my Mother. My Mother looked at my Father. They both looked at us. My Father made a little chuckle.

"It would seem," said my Father, "as though it was the honor of the whole family that was involved!" He made a whisper in Carol's ear. "Go to it, Son!" he whispered.

Rosalee jumped to her feet. Carol jumped to his feet. I jumped to my feet. We snatched hands. We ran right into the Dining Room. Carol's face was shining.

"Who's going to be Posie-with-the-Sick-Bones?" I cried.

"S—s—h!" said everybody except our Aunt Esta.

Our Aunt Esta suddenly seemed very much encouraged. She didn't wait a minute. She snatched a little book from her pocket. It was a little book that she had made herself all full of typewriter directions about the Game.

"Someone, of course," she said, "will have to be the Witch,—someone who knows the Game, I mean, so perhaps I—?"

We rushed to help her drag the old battered tricycle to the Porch! We helped her open up every porch door till all the green lawn and gay petunia blossoms came right up and fringed with the old porch rug! We helped her tie on the Witch's funny hat! And the scraggly gray wig! And the great horn-rimmed spectacles! We helped her climb into the tricycle seat! We were too excited to stay on the porch! We wheeled her right out on the green lawn itself! The green lilac hedge reared all up around her like a magic wall!

We screamed with joy! The Rich Man jumped when we screamed. The Rich Man's name was Mr. Trent.

"And Mr. Trent shall be the Black Woman who pushes you all about!" we screamed.

"I will not!" said Mr. Trent.

But Carol had already tied a black velvet ribbon on the Rich Man's leg to show that he was!

Our Aunt Esta seemed more encouraged every minute. She stood us all up in front of her. Even Father. She read from her book. It was a poem. The poem said:

Now come ye all to the Witch's Ball,
Ye Great, ye Small,
Ye Short, ye Tall,
Come one, Come all!
 

"I will not!" said the Rich Man.

He sweated.

"Oh Shucks! Be a Sport!" said my Father.

"I will not!" said the Rich Man.

He glared.

Our Aunt Esta tried to read from her book and wave her wand at the same time. It waved the Rich Man in the nose.

"Foul Menial!" waved our Aunt Esta. "Bring in the Captives!"

"Who?" demanded the Rich Man.

"You!" said our Aunt Esta.

The Rich Man brought us in! Especially Father! He bound us all up in silver paper chains! He put a silver paper ring through my Father's beautiful nose!

"Oh, I say," protested my Father. "It was 'guests' that I understood we were to be! Not captives!"

"Ha!" sniffed the Rich Man. "Be a Sport!"

They both glared.

Our Aunt Esta had cakes in a box. They seemed to be very good cakes. "Now in about ten minutes," read our Aunt Esta from her book, "you will all begin to feel very queer."

"Oh—Lordy!" said my Father.

"I knew it!" said the Rich Man. "I knew it all the time! From the very first mouthful—my stomach——"

"Is there no antidote?" cried my Mother.

Our Aunt Esta took off her horn-rimmed spectacles. She sniffed.

"Sillies!" she said. "This is just a Game, you know!"

"Nevertheless," said the Rich Man, "I certainly feel very queer."

"When you all feel equally queer," said our Aunt Esta coldly, "we will proceed with the Game."

We all felt equally queer just as soon as we could.

Our Aunt Esta made a speech. She made it from her little book.

"Poor helpless Captives (said the Speech). You are now entirely in my power! Yet fear not! If everybody does just exactly as I say, all may yet be well!"

"Hear! Hear!" said my Father.

The Rich Man suddenly seemed to like my Father very much. He reached over and nudged him in the ribs.

"Shut up!" he whispered. "The less you say the sooner it will be over!"

My Father said less at once. He seemed very glad to know about it.

Our Aunt Esta pointed to a boxful of little envelopes.

"Foul Menial," she said. "Bring the little envelopes!"

The Rich Man brought them. But not very cheerfully.

"Oh, of course, it's all right to call me that," he said. "But I tell you quite frankly that my daughter Posie's maid will never stand for it! Her name is Elizabeth Lou!—Mrs. Jane—Frank—Elizabeth Lou—even!"

Our Aunt Esta looked at the Rich Man. Her look was scornfuller and scornfuller.

"All Witch's servants," she said, "are called 'Foul Menial!'—From the earliest classical records of fairy tale and legend down to——"

"Not in our times," insisted the Rich Man. "I defy you in any Intelligence Office in New York to find a—a——"

Our Aunt Esta brushed the contradiction aside. She frowned. Not just at the Rich Man. But at everybody. "We will proceed with the Rehearsal—as written!" she said. She gruffed her voice. She thumped her wand on the floor. "Each captive," she said, "will now step forward and draw a little envelope from the box."

Each captive stepped forward and drew a little envelope from the box.

Inside each envelope was a little card. Very black ink words were written on each card.

"Captives, stand up very straight!" ordered our Aunt Esta.

Every captive stood very straight.

"Knock your knees together with fear!" ordered our Aunt Esta.

Every captive knocked his knees together with fear.

"Strain at your chains!" ordered our Aunt Esta. "But not too hard! Remembering they are paper!"

Every captive strained at his chains but not too hard! Remembering they were paper!

Our Aunt Esta seemed very much pleased. She read another poem from her book. The poem said:

Imprisoned thus in my Witchy Wiles,
Robbed of all hope, all food, all smiles,
A Fearful Doom o'er-hangs thy Rest,
Unless thou meet my Dread Behest!
 

"Oh, dear—oh, dear—oh, dear—oh, dear!" cried our Mother. "Can nothing save us?"

My Father burst his nose-ring!

Rosalee giggled!

Carol and I jumped up and down! We clapped our hands!

The Rich Man cocked his head on one side. He looked at our Aunt Esta. At her funny black pointed hat. At her scraggly gray wig. At her great horn-rimmed spectacles. At the hump on her back. "U-m-m," he said. "What do you mean,—'witch-y wiles?'"

"Silence!" said our Aunt Esta. "Read your cards!"

We read our cards.

Carol's card said "Pink Breeze" on it. And "Slimy Frog."

Our Aunt Esta poked Carol twice with her wand. "Pitiful Wretch!" said our Aunt Esta. "It is now two o'clock.—Unless you are back here exactly at three o'clock—bearing a Pink Breeze in your hands—you shall be turned for all time and eternity into a Slimy Green Frog!—Go hence!"

Carol went hence. He henced as far as the Mulberry Tree on the front lawn. He sat down on the grass with the card in his hand. He read the card. And read it. And read it. It puzzled him very much.

"Pitiful Wretch, go hence!" cried our Aunt Esta.

He henced as far as the Larch Tree this time. And sat down all over again. And puzzled. And puzzled.

"Go hence, I say, Pitiful Wretch!" insisted our Aunt Esta.

My Mother didn't like Carol to be called a "Pitiful Wretch."—It was because he was dumb, I suppose. When my Mother doesn't like anything it spots her cheek-bones quite red. Her cheek-bones were spotted very red.

"Stop your fussing!" said our Aunt Esta. "And attend to your own business!"

My Mother attended to her own business. The business of her card said "Silver Bird" and "Horse's Hoof."

Even our Aunt Esta looked a bit flabbergasted.

"Oh, dear—oh, dear," said our Aunt Esta. "I certainly am sorry that it was you who happened to draw that one!—And all dressed up in white too as you are! But after all—" she jerked with a great toss of her scraggly wig, "a Game is a Game! And there can be no concessions!"

"No, of course not!" said my Mother. "Lead me to the Slaughter!"

"There is not necessarily any slaughter connected with it," said our Aunt Esta very haughtily. But she hit my Mother only once with her wand.

"Frail Creature," she said. "On the topmost branch of the tallest tree in the world there is a silver bird with a song in his throat that has never been sung! Unless you bring me this bird singing you are hereby doomed to walk with the clatter of a Horse's Hoof!"

"Horse's Hoof?" gasped my Mother. "With the clatter of a Horse's Hoof?"

My Father was pretty mad. "Why, it's impossible!" he said. "She's as light as Thistle-Down! Even in her boots it's like a Fairy passing!"

"Nevertheless," insisted our Aunt Esta. "She shall walk with the clatter of a Horse's Hoof—unless she brings me the Silver Bird."

My Mother started at once for the Little Woods. "I can at least search the Tallest Tree in my world!" she said.

It made my Father nervouser and nervouser. "Now don't you dare," he called after her, "climb anything until I come!"

"Base Interloper!" said our Aunt Esta. "Keep Still!"

"Who?" said my Father.

"You!" said our Aunt Esta.

I giggled. Our Aunt Esta was very mad. She turned me into a White Rabbit. I was made of white canton flannel. I was very soft. I had long ears. They were lop-ears. They were lined with pink velvet. They hung way down over my shoulders so I could stroke them. I liked them very much. But my legs looked like white night-drawers. "Ruthy-the-Rabbit" was my name. Our Aunt Esta scolded it at me.

"Because of your impudence, Ruthy-the-Rabbit," she said, "you shall not be allowed to roam the woods and fields at will. But shall stay here in captivity close by my side and help the Foul Menial do the chores!"

The Rich Man seemed very much pleased. He winked an eye. He pulled one of my lop-ears. It was nice to have somebody pleased with me.

Everybody was pleased with Rosalee's bewitchment. It sounded so restful. All Rosalee had to do was to be very pretty,—just exactly as she was! And seventeen years old,—just exactly as she was! And sit on the big gray rock by the side of the brook just exactly as it was! And see whether it was a Bright Green Celluloid Fish or a Bright Red Celluloid Fish that came down the brook first! And if it was a Bright Green Celluloid Fish she was to catch it! And slit open its stomach! And take out all its Directions! And follow 'em! And if it was a Bright Red Celluloid Fish she was to catch it! And take out all its Directions and follow them!—In either case her card said she would need rubbers and a trowel.—It sounded like Buried Treasure to me! Or else Iris Roots! Our Aunt Esta is very much interested in Iris Roots.

It was my Father's Bewitchment that made the only real trouble. Nothing at all was postponed about my Father's Bewitchment. It happened all at once. It was because my Father knew too much. It was about the Alphabet that he knew too much. The words on my Father's card said "Alphabet." And "Backwards." And "Pink Silk Fairy." And "Tin Locomotive Head." And "Three Minutes." Our Aunt Esta turned my Father into a Pink Silk Fairy with White Tarlatan Wings because he was able to say the Alphabet backwards in three minutes! My Father refused to turn! He wouldn't! He wouldn't! He swore he wouldn't! He said it was a "cruel and unnecessary punishment!" Our Aunt Esta said it wasn't a Punishment! It was a Reward! It was the Tin Locomotive Head that was the punishment! My Father said he wouldn't have cared a rap if it had been the Tin Locomotive Head!—He could have smoked through that! But he wouldn't be a Pink Silk Fairy with White Tarlatan Wings!

The Rich Man began right away to untie the black velvet ribbon on his leg, and go home! He looked very cheated! He scorned my Father with ribald glances! "Work?" he gloated. "Of course it won't work! I knew all the time it wouldn't work!—Two hundred dollars! And forty-three cents?" he gloated. "H-a!"

Our Aunt Esta cried! She put her hand on my Father's arm. It was a very small hand. It didn't look a bit like a Witch's hand. Except for having no lovingness in it, it looked a good deal like my Mother's hand.

My Father consented to be turned a little! But not much! He consented to wear the white tarlatan wings! And the gold paper crown! But not the garland of roses! He would carry the pink silk dress on his arm, he said. But he would not wear it!

The Rich Man seemed very much encouraged. He stopped untying the black velvet ribbon from his leg. He grinned a little.

My Father told him what he thought of him. The Rich Man acknowledged that very likely it was so. But he didn't seem to mind. He kept right on grinning.

My Father stalked away in his gold paper crown with the pink dress over his arm. He looked very proud and noble. He looked as though even if dogs were sniffing at his heels he wouldn't turn. His white wings flapped as he walked. The spangles shone. It looked very holy.

The Rich Man made a funny noise. It sounded like snorting.

My Father turned round quicker than scat. He glared right through the Rich Man at our Aunt Esta. He told our Aunt Esta just what he thought of her!

The Rich Man said it wasn't so at all! That the Game undoubtedly was perfectly practical if——

"If nothing!" said my Father. "It's you yourself that are spoiling the whole effect by running around playing you're a Black Slave with nothing on but a velvet ribbon round one knee! The very least you could do," said my Father, "is to have your face blacked! And wear a plaid skirt!"

"Eh?" said the Rich Man.

Our Aunt Esta was perfectly delighted with the suggestion.

The Rich Man took her delight coldly.

He glared at my Father. "I don't think I need any outside help," he said, "in the management of my affairs.—As the Owner indeed of one of the largest stores in the world I——"

"That's all right," said my Father. "But you never yet have tried to manage the children's Aunt Esta.—Nothing can stop her!"

Nothing could! She pinned an old plaid shawl around the Rich Man's waist! She blacked his face! He had to kneel at her feet while it was being blacked! He seemed to sweat easily! But our Aunt Esta blacked very easily too! He looked lovely! Even my Father thought he looked lovely! When he was done he wanted to look in a mirror. My Father advised him not to. But he insisted. My Father got up from making suggestions and came and stood behind him while he looked. They looked only once. Something seemed to hit them. They doubled right up. It was laughter that hit them. They slapped each other on the back. They laughed! And laughed! And laughed! They made such a noise that my Mother came running!

It seemed to make our Aunt Esta a little bit nervous to have my Mother come running. She pointed her wand. She roared her voice.

"Where is the Silver Bird?" she roared.

My Mother looked just as swoone-y as she could. She fell on her knees. She clasped her hands.

"Oh, Cruel Witch," she said. "I saw the bird! But I couldn't reach him! He was in the Poplar Tree!—However in the world did you put him there?—Was that what you were bribing the Butcher's Boy about this morning? Was that——?"

"Hush!" roared our Aunt Esta. "Your Doom has overtaken you! Go hence with the clatter of a Horse's Hoof until such time as your Incompetent Head may——"

"Oh, it wasn't my head that was incompetent," said my Mother. "It was my legs. The Poplar Tree was so very tall! So very fluffy and undecided to climb! So——"

"With the clatter of a Horse's Hoof!" insisted our Aunt Esta. "There can be no mercy!"

"None?" implored my Mother.

"None!" said our Aunt Esta.

She gave my Mother two funny little wooden cups. They were something like clappers. You could hold them in your hand so they scarcely showed at all and make a noise like a horse galloping across a bridge! Or trotting! Or anything! It made quite a loud noise! It was wonderful! My Mother started right away for the village. She had on white shoes. Her feet were very small. She sounded like a great team horse stumbling up the plank of a ferry-boat. "I think I'll go get the mail!" she said.

"Like that?" screamed my Father.

My Mother turned around. Her hair was all curly. There were laughs in her eyes.

"I have to!" she said. "I'm bewitched!"

"I'll go with you!" said my Father.

My Mother turned around again. She looked at my Father! At his golden crown! At his white spangled wings! At the pink silk skirt over his arm!

"Like—that?" said my Mother.

My Father decided not to go.

The Rich Man said he considered the decision very wise.

They glared.

Way over on the other side of the green lilac hedge we heard my Mother trotting down the driveway. Clack-clack—clack—clack sounded the hoof-beats!

"My Lord—she's pacing!" groaned my Father.

"Clever work!" said the Rich Man. "Was she ever in a Band? In a Jazz Band, you know, with Bantam Rooster whistles? And drums that bark like dogs?"

"In a what?" cried my Father. He was awful mad.

Our Aunt Esta tried to soothe him with something worse. She turned to me.

"Now, Ruthy-the-Rabbit," she said. "Let us see what you can do to redeem the ignominy of your impudent giggling!" She handed me the Bright Green and the Bright Red Celluloid fishes. She poked her wand at me. "Hopping all the way," she said. "Every step of the way, you understand,—bear these two fish to the Head-Waters of the Magic Brook,—the little pool under the apple tree will do,—and start them ex—ex—peditiously down the Brook towards Rosalee!"

"Yes'm," I said.

Our Aunt Esta turned to the Rich Man.

"Foul Menial," she said. "Push my chariot a little further down the Lawn into the shade!"

The Foul Menial pushed it.

My Father pushed a little too.

I hopped along beside them flopping my long ears. Our Aunt Esta looked ex-actly like a Witch! The Rich Man's black face was leaking a little but not much! It would have been easier if he hadn't tripped so often on his plaid shawl skirt! My Father's white wings flapped as he pushed! He looked like an angel who wasn't quite hatched! It was handsome!

When we got to the thickest shade there was a man's black felt hat bobbing along the top of the Japonica Hedge. It was rather a soft-boiled looking hat. It was bobbing just as fast as it could towards the house.

When our Aunt Esta saw the hat she screamed! She jumped from her chariot as though it had been flames! She tore the scraggly gray wig from her head! She tore the hump from her back! She kicked off her wooden shoes! Her feet were silk! She ran like the wind for the back door!

My Father ran for the Wood-Shed!

The Rich Man dove into the Lilac Bush!

When the Rich Man was all through diving into the Lilac Bush he seemed to think that he was the only one present who hadn't done anything!

"What you so scared about, Ruthy?" he said. "What's the matter with everybody? Who's the Bloke?"

"It's the New Minister," I said.

"Has he got the Cholera or anything?" said the Rich Man.

"No, not exactly," I explained. "He's just our Aunt Esta's Suitor!"

"Your Aunt Esta's Suitor?" cried the Rich Man. "Suitor?" He clapped his hand over his mouth. He burst a safety-pin that helped lash the plaid shawl around him. "What do you mean,—'Suitor?'" he said.

It seemed queer he was so stupid.

"Why a Suitor," I explained, "is a Person Who Doesn't Suit—so he keeps right on coming most every day to see if he does! As soon as he suits, of course, he's your husband and doesn't come any more at all—because he's already there! The New Minister," I explained very patiently, "is a Suitor for our Aunt Esta's hand!"

We crawled through the Lilac Bush. We peeped out.

Our Aunt Esta hadn't reached the back door at all. She sat all huddled up in a little heap on the embankment trying to keep the New Minister from seeing that she was in her stocking-feet. But the New Minister didn't seem to see anything at all except her hands. Being a Suitor for her hands it was natural, I suppose, that he wasn't interested in anything except her hands. Her hands were on her hair. The scraggly gray wig had rumpled all the seriousness out of her hair. It looked quite jolly. The New Minister stared! And stared! And stared! Except for having no lovingness in them, her hands looked very much like my Mother's.

"Our Aunt Esta's got—nice hands," I said.

The Rich Man burst another safety pin.

"Yes, by Jove," he said. "And nice feet, too!" He seemed quite surprised. "How long's this minister fellow been coming here?" he said.

"Oh, I don't know," I said. "He comes whenever our Aunt Esta comes."

The Rich Man made a grunt. He looked at the Minister's hat.

"Think of courting a woman," he said, "in a hat like that!"

"Oh, our Aunt Esta doesn't care anything at all about hats," I said.

"It's time she did!" said the Rich Man.

"We'll go out if you say so," I suggested, "and help them have a pleasant time."

The Rich Man was awful mad. He pointed at his plaid shawl! He pointed at his black face!

"What?" he said. "Go out like this? And make a fool of myself before that Ninny-Hat?"

"Why, he'd love it!" I said.

The Rich Man choked.

"That's quite enough reason!" he said.

There was a noise in the wood-shed. We could see the noise through the window. It was my Father trying to untie his wings. He couldn't.

The Rich Man seemed to feel better suddenly. He began to mop his face.

"It's a great Game, all right," he said, "if you don't weaken!" He pulled my ears. "But why in the world, Ruthy——" he worried, "did she have to go and tuck that forty-three cents on to the end of the bill?"

"Why, that's her profit!" I explained.

"Her—profit?" gasped the Rich Man. "Her Profit?"

"Why, she had to have something!" I explained. "She was planning to have more, of course! She was planning to go to Atlantic City! But everything costs so big! Even toys! It's——"

"Her Profit?" gasped the Rich Man. "Forty-three cents on a two hundred dollar deal?" He began to laugh! And laugh! "And she calls herself a Business Woman?" he said. "Why, she ought to be in an Asylum!—All women, in fact, ought to be in Asylums—or else in homes of their own!" Quite furiously he began to pull my ears all over again. "Business Woman," he said. "And both her feet would go at once in the hollow of my hand! Business Woman!"

Out in the roadway suddenly somebody sneezed.

It made the Rich Man jump awfully.

"Ruthy, stay where you are!" he ordered.

"I can't!" I called back. "I'm already hopped out!"

From my hop-out I could see the Person Who Sneezed! Anybody would have known that it was Posie-with-the-Sick-Bones! She was sitting in an automobile peering through the hedge! There was a black woman with her!

The Rich Man crackled in the bushes. He reached out and grabbed my foot. He pulled me back. His face looked pretty queer.

"Yes, she's been there all the time," he whispered. "But not a soul knows it!—I wanted her to see it work!—I wanted to be sure that she liked it—But I was afraid to bring her in! She catches everything so! And I knew there were children here! And I was afraid there might be something contagious!"

He peered out through the Lilac Branches. There was quite a good deal to peer at.

Down in the meadow Rosalee was still running up and down the soft banks of the brook trying to catch the Celluloid Fish. She had on a green dress. It was a slim dress like a willow wand. She had her shoes and stockings in one hand. And a great bunch of wild blue Forget-me-Nots in the other. Her hair was like a gold wave across her face. She looked pretty. The Springtime looked pretty too.—Out in the wood-shed my Father was still wrestling with his wings.

Up on the green mound by the house our Aunt Esta was still patting her hair while the New Minister stared at her hands.

The Rich Man turned very suddenly and stared at me.

"Contagious?" he gasped out suddenly. "Why, upon my soul, Ruthie—it's just about the most contagious place that I ever was in—in my life!"

He gave a funny little laugh. He glanced back over his shoulder towards the road. He groaned.

"But I shall certainly be ruined, Ruthie," he said, "if my little daughter Posie or my little daughter Posie's Black Woman ever see me at close range—in these clothes!" He took my chin in his hands. He looked very deep into my eyes. "Ruthie," he said, "you seem to be a very intelligent child.—If you can think of any way—any way, I say—by which I can slink off undetected into the house—and be washed——"

"Oh Shucks! That's easy!" I said. "We'll make Posie be the Witch!"

When I hopped out this time I stayed hopped! I hopped right up on the wall! And stroked my ears!

When Posie-with-the-Sick-Bones saw me she began to laugh! And clap her hands! And kick the Black Woman with her toes!

"Oh, I want to be the Witch!" she cried. "I want to be the Witch for ever and ever! And change everybody into everything! I'm going to wear it home in the automobile! And scare the Cook to Death! I'm going to change the Cook into a cup of Beef Tea! And throw her down the sink! I'm going to change my Poodle Dog into a New Moon!" she giggled. "I'm going to change my Doctor into a Balloon! And cut the string!"

The Rich Man seemed perfectly delighted. I could see his face in the bushes. He kept rubbing his hands! And nodding to me to go ahead!

I went ahead just as fast as I could.

The Black Woman began to giggle a little. She giggled and opened the automobile door. She giggled and lifted Posie out. She giggled and carried Posie to the Witch's chariot. She giggled and tied the Witch's hat under Posie's chin. She giggled and tied the humped-back cape around Posie's neck.

Posie never stopped clapping her hands except when the Witch's Wig itched her nose.

It was when the Witch's Wig itched her nose that the Rich Man slunk away on all fours to be washed. He giggled as he slunk. It looked friendly.

Carol came. He was pretty tired. But he had the Pink Breeze in his hands. It was Phlox! It was very pink! It was in a big flower pot! He puffed out his cheeks as he carried it and blew it into Breezes! It was pretty! It was very heavy! He knelt at the Witch's feet to offer it to her! When he looked up and saw the Strange Child in the Witch's Chair he dropped it! It broke and lay on the ground all crushed and spoiled! His mouth quivered! All the shine went out of his face!

It scared Posie to see all the shine go out of his face.

"Oh, Boy—Boy, put back your smile!" she said.

Carol just stood and shook his head.

Posie began to scream.

"Why doesn't he speak?" she screamed.

"He can't," I said. "He hasn't any speech!"

"Why doesn't he cry?" screamed Posie.

"He can't," I said. "He hasn't any cry!"

Posie stopped screaming.

"Can't he even swear?" she said.

"No, he can't," I said. "He hasn't any swear!"

Posie looked pretty surprised.

"I can speak!" she said. "I can cry! I can swear!"

"You sure can, Little Missy!" said the Black Woman.

Posie looked at Carol. She looked a long time. A little tear rolled down her cheek.

"Never mind, Boy," she said. "I will help you make a new Pink Breeze!"

"Oh Lor, Little Missy," said the Black Woman. "You never helped no one do nothin' in your life!"

"I will if I want to!" said Posie. "And we'll make a Larkspur-Colored Breeze too, if we want to!" she said. "And I'll have it on my window-sill all blue-y and frilly and fluttery when everything else in the room is horrid and hushed and smothery!—And we'll make a Green Breeze——" She gave a little cry. She looked at the Waving Meadow where all the long silver-tipped grasses ducked and dipped in the wind. She stretched out her arms. Her arms were no bigger than the handles of our croquet mallets. "We'll dig up all the Waving Meadow," she cried. "And pot it into Window-Sill Breezes for the hot people in the cities!"

"You can't!" I said. "It would take mor'n an hour! And you've got to be the Witch!"

"I will not be the Witch!" said Posie. She began to scream! "It's my Game!" she screamed. "And I'll do anything I like with it!" She tore off her black pointed hat! She kicked off her stubby wooden shoes! She screamed to the Black Woman to come and bear her away!

While the Black Woman bore her away Carol walked beside them. He seemed very much interested that any one could make so much noise.

When Posie saw how much interested Carol was in the noise, she stopped en—tirely screaming to the Black Woman and screamed to Carol instead.

While Carol walked beside the Noise, I saw the New Minister come down the Road and go away. His face looked red.

Our Aunt Esta came running. She was very business-like. She snatched up her wooden shoes and put them on! She crammed on the scraggly gray wig and the humped-back cape!

"Foul Menial!" she called. "Come at once and resume the Game!"

The Black Woman stepped out of the bushes. She looked very much surprised. But not half as surprised as our Aunt Esta.

Our Aunt Esta rubbed her eyes! She rubbed them again! And again! She looked at the Black Woman's face. It was a real black face. She looked at the Black Woman's woolly hair.—It was real woolly hair! Her jaw dropped!

"Ruthy-the-Rabbit, hop here!" she gasped.

I hopped.

She put her lips close to my ear.

"Ruthy-the-Rabbit," she gasped. "Do I see what I think I see?"

"Yes, you do!" I said.

She put her head down in her hands! She began to laugh! And laugh! And laugh! It was a queer laugh as though she couldn't stop! The tears ran out between her fingers!

"Well—I certainly am a Witch!" she laughed. Her shoulders shook like sobs.

The Rich Man came running! He had his watch in his hand! He was all clean and shining! He saw the Black Woman standing by the Witch's chair! He saw the Witch in the chair! He thought the Witch was Posie! He grabbed her right up in his arms and hugged her!

"Though I'm late for a dozen Directors' Meetings," he cried, "it's worth it, my Precious, to see you laugh!"

"I'm not your Precious!" cried our Aunt Esta. She bit! She tore! She scratched! She shook her scraggly gray wig-curls all over her face! It was like a mask! But all the time she kept right on laughing! She couldn't seem to stop!

The Rich Man kissed her. And kissed her! Right through her scraggly gray wig-curls he kissed her! He couldn't seem to stop!

"Now, at last, my Precious," he said. "We've learned how to live! We'll play more! We'll laugh more!"

Our Aunt Esta tore off her wig! She tore off her hump! She shook her fist at the Rich Man! But she couldn't stop laughing!

The Rich Man gave one awful gasp! He turned red! He turned white! He looked at the wood-shed window to see if my Father had seen him.

My Father had seen him!

The Rich Man said things under his breath. That is, most of them were under his breath. He stalked to his car. He ordered the Black Woman to pick up the Real Posie and stalk to his car! He looked madder than Pirates!

But when he had climbed into his car, and had started his engine, and was all ready to go, he stood up on the seat instead, and peered over the hedge-top at our Aunt Esta! And grinned!

Our Aunt Esta was standing just where he had left her. All the laughter was gone from her. But her eyes looked very astonished. Her cheeks were blazing red. Her hair was all gay and rumpled like a sky-terrier's. It seemed somehow to be rather becoming to our Aunt Esta to be kissed by mistake.

The Rich Man made a little noise in his throat. Our Aunt Esta looked up. She jumped. The Rich Man fixed his eyes right on her. His eyes were full of twinkles.

"Talk about Be-Witchments!" he said. "Talk about—Be-Witchments!—I'll be back on Tuesday! What for?—Great Jumping Jehosophats!" he said. "It's enough that I'll be back!"

My Father stuck his head and the tip of one battered wing out the wood-shed window. He started to say something. And cocked his ear instead.

It was towards the village that he cocked his ear.

We all stopped and cocked our ears.

It was a funny sound: Clack-Clack-Clack! Clack-Clack-Clack! Clack-Clack—Clack!

It was my Mother cantering home across the wooden bridge.

It sounded glad.

My Father thought of a new way suddenly to escape from his wings! And ran to meet her!