He sat up late that night thinking it over, and, arter looking at it all ways, he made up ’is mind to go and see Mrs. Prince, an old lady that lived all alone by ’erself in a cottage near Smith’s farm. He’d set ’er down for wot he called a white witch, which is the best kind and on’y do useful things, such as charming warts away or telling gals about their future ’usbands; and the next arternoon, arter telling ’is wife’s mother that fresh air and travelling was the best cure for the yellow jaundice, he set off to see ’er.
[Illustration: “Mrs. Prince was sitting at ’er front door nursing ’er three cats.”]
Mrs. Prince was sitting at ’er front door nursing ’er three cats when ’e got there. She was an ugly, little old woman with piercing black eyes and a hook nose, and she ’ad a quiet, artful sort of a way with ’er that made ’er very much disliked. One thing was she was always making fun of people, and for another she seemed to be able to tell their thoughts, and that don’t get anybody liked much, especially when they don’t keep it to theirselves. She’d been a lady’s maid all ’er young days, and it was very ’ard to be taken for a witch just because she was old.
“Fine day, ma’am,” ses Joe Barlcomb.
“Very fine,” ses Mrs. Prince.
“Being as I was passing, I just thought I’d look in,” ses Joe Barlcomb, eyeing the cats.
“Take a chair,” ses Mrs. Prince, getting up and dusting one down with ’er apron.
Joe sat down. “I’m in a bit o’ trouble, ma’am,” he ses, “and I thought p’r’aps as you could help me out of it. My pore pig’s been bewitched, and it’s dead.”
“Bewitched?” ses Mrs. Prince, who’d ’eard of ’is ideas. “Rubbish. Don’t talk to me.”
“It ain’t rubbish, ma’am,” ses Joe Barlcomb; “three o’ my children is down with the measles, my wife’s broke ’er leg, ’er mother is laid up in my little place with the yellow jaundice, and the pig’s dead.”
“Wot, another one?” ses Mrs. Prince.
“No; the same one,” ses Joe.
“Well, ’ow am I to help you?” ses Mrs. Prince. “Do you want me to come and nurse ’em?”
“No, no,” ses Joe, starting and turning pale; “unless you’d like to come and nurse my wife’s mother,” he ses, arter thinking a bit. “I was hoping that you’d know who’d been overlooking me and that you’d make ’em take the spell off.”
Mrs. Prince got up from ’er chair and looked round for the broom she’d been sweeping with, but, not finding it, she set down agin and stared in a curious sort o’ way at Joe Barlcomb.
“Oh, I see,” she ses, nodding. “Fancy you guessing I was a witch.”
“You can’t deceive me,” ses Joe; “I’ve ’ad too much experience; I knew it the fust time I saw you by the mole on your nose.”
Mrs. Prince got up and went into her back-place, trying her ’ardest to remember wot she’d done with that broom. She couldn’t find it anywhere, and at last she came back and sat staring at Joe for so long that ’e was ’arf frightened out of his life. And by-and-by she gave a ’orrible smile and sat rubbing the side of ’er nose with ’er finger.