Joe Barlcomb went out of ’is mind a’most. He’d never liked ’is wife’s mother, and he wouldn’t ’ave had ’er in the house on’y ’e wanted her to nurse ’is wife and children, and when she came and laid up and wanted waiting on ’e couldn’t dislike her enough.
He was quite certain all along that somebody was putting a spell on ’im, and when ’e went out a morning or two arterward and found ’is best pig lying dead in a corner of the sty he gave up and, going into the ’ouse, told ’em all that they’d ’ave to die ’cause he couldn’t do anything more for ’em. His wife’s mother and ’is wife and the children all started crying together, and Joe Barlcomb, when ’e thought of ’is pig, he sat down and cried too.
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.”