“Oh, you’d make a better turtle—you’re so fond of walking slow,” laughed Linn.
“She’ll turn Herbie into a sleeping Prince, and Mary Lee will be the Princess who kisses him and wakes him up,” said Chuck, teasingly, at which all the boys roared with laughter.
As Herbie started off after Chuck a merry chase followed which the other boys enjoyed, at times holding Chuck until Herbie was almost upon him and then letting him go, only to catch Herbie and hold him in turn. Suddenly in the midst of the uproar there came a sharp rap on the door.
“Hush,” whispered Chuck, “it’s the witch.”
[Illustration: “Three cheers for Hopie!” shouted all the boys.]
THE WITCH TELLS FORTUNES
“Come in,” invited Father and the boys, standing in a group watching the knob of the door turn slowly. As it opened silently they saw standing on the threshold a little, old woman, all bent over, a long black cape and hood covering her from head to foot. She carried a cane with a crook in it and leaned very heavily upon it as she walked.
Muttering to herself she crossed the room and took a seat by the fire. Her coarse, gray hair fell in straggly locks about her face almost hiding it from view.
Suddenly the lights went out, leaving the room in darkness, save for the firelight.
“Place the pot before me,” she ordered, in a high, broken voice, shaking her stick at Fat.
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Fat, hurrying to obey.
“She’s got Fat scared to death,” giggled Toad to Reddy.
From under her cape she now took a small paper bag and poured the contents into the pot before her, then standing up she hobbled around it three times, waving her arms and humming a queer little tune. Soon a dull red light glowed from within the pot, getting brighter and brighter.
“It’s magic,” whispered Toad to Hopie Smith.
The old witch now sat down again and took from beneath her cape a small pad, a long quill pen and a queer little bottle filled with milky white fluid.
“If you drink any of that you’ll get as small as a flea,” said Fat in a low voice.
The old witch rapped hard on the floor with her cane.
“Herbie, come forward,” she commanded.
“Go ahead,” giggled Reddy, giving him a little push and Herbie stepped before the witch.
She did not notice him at first, being very busy writing upon a slip of paper with the quill pen which she dipped into a little bottle. Presently she raised her head and handed him the paper.
“Bend low thine ear,” she said, and Herbie obeyed.
“Keep this until I am gone,” she added, “then hold it over yonder candle light, for thy fortune is written there.”
Each boy was now called in turn and received a slip of paper. Then the old witch arose.