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Where the Witch Lives

Witch Hex lives in a queer dark place, somewhat like a cavern, with walls of soft black moss. Yet it can't be underground, for looking out through the single entrance that serves for both door and window you can see the moon, very big and low, and always shining day or night.

A great fire blazes in the middle of the floor, and over it stands a boiling cauldron. Against the wall is a large chest, carved with strange signs, in which the Witch keeps her Magic Things.

Curled up asleep by the fire lies her pet cat, Fiddle, Fiddle is enormous for a cat—almost as big as a small boy. Presently he wakes, yawns and has a long stretch, shaking the last sleepiness out of both hind legs. Then he washes his face carefully, round and round, with his paw. He feels hungry, so he rubs his stomach; but as that doesn't do much good he looks about for something to eat. A large tin with holes bored in the cover stands on the chest, and he remembers seeing his mistress sprinkle something from this over her food. So he lies down on his back luxuriously, and, licking his chops, takes the tin in both hind paws and shakes it vigorously over his open mouth. But suddenly with an enormous yowl, he leaps into the air, coughing, blinking, sneezing and mewing all at once. What he found was the Witch's pepper-pot!

The pepper makes him feel extremely lively; and now he spies a loose end of yarn dangling from an old spinning-wheel that stands in a dark corner. He bounds to it and pats the swinging end to and fro. But the wool catches on one of his sharp claws and he cannot throw it off. He rolls on the ground to break it, but the yarn is strong and only binds him round and round. Now he is frightened, and begins to run and whirl and spring into the air; but with every movement the thread, unwinding from the wheel, wraps him closer and closer; and the more he spins and turns and somersaults head over heels, the more tangled he gets, till at last he cannot move a paw or even swing his indignant tail; and lies on his back a helpless, mewing bundle.

Fortunately at this moment there is a shadow across the moon, and Witch Hex flies home, riding on her broomstick, a basket on her arm.

The Witch. [Alighting and setting her broom- stick away.] There! Glad to be home at last. Where is Queen Brangomar? I thought she'd be here before me with Snow White's heart. I had to go half way to the Moon for the other ingredients for that magic hair-restorer; but I've got them all, safe in my basket. Where is that lazy-bones Cat of mine? [She calls.] Fiddle, Fiddle, Fiddle!

[The only answer is a faint mew from something like a huge ball of yarn in
the corner, the Witch examines it, and then breaks into a laugh.

The Witch. Well, Fiddle, whatever have you been up to now? Oh, ho! playing with my spinning-wheel? Well, you are a snarl. Wait—I'll unwind you!

[She seizes one end of the yarn and winds it into a ball, but so quickly that poor Fiddle, at the other end, spins and whirls and revolves like a top as she unwinds him, and the Witch laughs at his antics till the tears stream down her withered old cheeks. When he is free, Fiddle has to sit in a corner and hold his head in both paws for dizziness; but, picking up her basket, the Witch says:

The Witch. Now come here and help me mix that magic hair restorer. We must stew all the other ingredients together before Brangomar comes.

[The Witch and Fiddle dance round and round the cauldron in a mystic circle;

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"We must stew all the other ingredients together before Brangomar comes"

and as Hex throws the various things she has collected Into the boiling brew she sings:

the magic mixture

A hair from the tail of the ride-a-cock Horse;
   A lace from the Old Woman's shoe,
       A bit of the tuffet
       Of Little Miss Muffet;
   The blast that the Little Boy Blue.
A tear of the Kittens who lost all their mittens
   When they began to cry.
       A sniff from Miss Mary
       When she was contrary;
The Plum from Jack Homer's pie.

A slice of Green Cheese from the Man in the Moon ;
   The tails of the Three Blind Mice;
       A bone from the cupboard
       Of Old Mother Hubbard;
   And little girls' sugar and spice.
A tick from the clock of hi-diccory Dock;
   The tails of the sheep of Bo-peep;
       The eye of the fly
       That saw Cock Robin die ;
And a "baa" from the Baa-black Sheep.

[When she has finished the mixture, the
Witch sniffs the steam from the cauldron, and then sips a little of the brew from the ladle.
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The Witch. Tastes good, and hot enough. Yes, the ladle is red hot. Now that's all except the heart. Fiddle, set the kettle to cool.

[Fiddle takes the cauldron from over the fire and sets it in the corner.

The Witch. I'm chilly! [She tucks up her skirts and sits down comfortably on the blazing fire.] Ah, that feels good! Nothing to do now but wait for Snow White's heart. But then you shall see—what you shall see a beautiful head of long, wavy hair. Ah, here's Brangomar at last.

[Queen Brangomar enters. Fiddle bows low to her.

The Queen. Sorry to be late, dear Hexy, but Berthold never returned till morning, and then I had to see personally to having him locked up in the Grey Tower. He made a frightful fuss ; but I was afraid to trust him.

The Witch. Did he bring the heart?

The Queen. Yes, here it is. Oh, how I hated that child!

The Witch. Hair restorer's just ready for it. Help me up. Don't like to sit on the fire too long. I dosed off the other day and boiled over. Now the heart. [She take's it and hobbles to the cauldron.] Receipt says that when I add this the brew will turn a beautiful pink. Then I dip in my head, and presto! long and lovely hair. Now watch!

[She drops the heart into the cauldron, which steams vigorously.

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The Witch. [Dancing with delight.] See it steam!

The Queen. But it's turning green, not pink.

The Witch. So it is. Still, there can't be any mistake; I was most careful. Well, here goes for

a handsome head of hair. You'll hardly know me when you see me again. [She dips her head three times into the steaming cauldron, and then raises it proudly.] How's that? Pretty fine, eh?

[Surely something has sprouted on the Witch's bald pate. The Queen looks carefully, and then bursts into a peel of laughter; and Fiddle, holding his sides, rolls on the ground in mirth.

The Witch. What are you laughing at? Feels very thick and curly. Stop that cackling!

The Queen. [Hardly able to speak.] Oh, my dear Hex! Ha, ha, ha! You have—ha, ha, ha!—a headful of pig-tails!

The Witch. Pig-tails? Nonsense! It's short and curly.

The Queen. Not pig-tails, Hexy. Your head is covered with little white, curly tails of pigs!

The Witch. Tails of pigs? Tails of pigs? [She feels the growth carefully.] By Hop-scotch, they are pigs' tails! Stop laughing! If the joke's on anybody, it's on you. Instead of a human heart, your precious huntsman has brought back the heart of a pig; and Miss Snow White is alive at this moment. Ha, ha, for you!

The Queen. [Her laughter broken off short.] What? Snow White alive?

The Witch. If these are pigs' tails, that was a pig's heart. Ask your Magic Mirror if Snow White's not alive.

The Queen. [Seizing the Mirror which hangs from her girdle.]

Mirror, mirror, in my hand,
Who's the fairest in the land?

The Mirror. [Answering.]

You, who hold me in your hand,
You were fairest in the land;
But to-day, I answer true,
Snow White is more fair than you.

The Queen. Snow White alive! [She starts to dash the Mirror to the ground.] The Witch. [Seizing it.] Be careful of that Mirror, I tell you!

Mirror, mirror, truly tell,
Where doth Princess Snow White dwell?

The Mirror. [Answering.]

'Mid the ancient forest dells
With the Seven Dwarfs she dwells.

The Witch. You see? Your deceitful huntsman has let Snow White escape, and brought a pig's heart to fool us with. Snow White has found the house of the Seven Dwarfs—and there you are, my merry lady!

The Queen. The Seven Dwarfs? Who are they?

The Witch. Rather nice little men; sort of gnomes. Live all alone. Never saw them myself.

The Queen. [Wrapping her cloak about her.] Where do they live?

The Witch. Oh, ho! Intend to deal with Snow White yourself this time, do you? The Queen. Where do they live?

The Witch. The usual way is about twenty miles over the mountains, but there's a short cut through my back yard. Less than a mile away.

The Queen. Give me a knife or a dagger, quickly!

The Witch. What? Walk into the Dwarf's house, knife in hand and crown on your head like that? I'd sooner dance into a hornet's nest. Really, Brangomar, if I were you I'd swap brains with a grasshopper!

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The Queen. But what shall I do? She's alive! She's more beautiful than I! My heart will burn itself out of my body like a live coal. Tell me some way!

The Witch. Deary me! Have I got to plan it all out for you again? You're a nuisance.

The Queen. How? How? The Witch. There's only one safe way . . .

The Queen. Yes?

The Witch. First, I must transform you into a different looking person altogether.

The Queen. And then?

The Witch. And then give you some means of disposing Snow White that the Dwarfs can't trace back to you. Fiddle, fetch me the deadly poison things.

The Queen. Ah, poison! Yes, that's it!

[Fiddle fetches an odd looking box full of strange articles from the Magic Chest.

The Witch. [Examining them.] Almost none left. Pair of poisoned slippers—no use. Poisoned pipe—no. Oh, here! Best thing in the box,—the poisoned apple. Beautiful, isn't it? Only the red side is poisoned, the white side is perfectly good. If you want to tempt anybody, eat the white side yourself; but the least bite of the red side, and down they drop, dead as a tombstone. But no, you're not clever enough to be trusted with that. Ah, here we are,—the poisoned comb. The very thing!

The Queen. Let me see it! [She seizes the jewelled comb.]

The Witch. Put that in Snow White's hair, let it stay there while you count one hundred, and all's over with her. It doesn't work instantly like the apple, but it's much safer with a stupid person like you.

The Queen. How my fingers itch to set this in her black hair. Now what disguise?

The Witch. Disguise? Oh yes! Fiddle, bring me the Transformation Mixtures.

[Fiddle brings from the chest three odd-shaped bottles, one filled with green, one with purple, and one with orange liquid.

The Witch. Are these all? My entire stock of magic is running out. Lucky I'm going to retire from business next year. The Queen. [Attempting to seize a bottle.] Let me see . . .

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The Witch. [Crossly.] Don't snatch! Wretched manners! I'll read the labels. [She reads one.] "Five drops before breakfast." Well I declare; I've written out the doses most carefully but totally forgotten what they change people into. But that's easily remedied. A drop of each in the cauldron and you'll see for yourself. Now Watch!

[She pours a few drops from the green bottle into the cauldron. Instantly a cloud of steam rises; and in the steam&dmash;dimly at first, and then quite clearly, appears the figure of an old and wrinkled hag in threadbare garments. On one arm she carries a large basket filled with ribbons, laces, needles, thread, and such articles.

The Witch. I remember, the Old Pedlar-woman disguise. Just the thing. You could pretend to be selling Snow White the comb. But let's see what the others are, anyhow.

[She pours some drops from the purple bottle into the cauldron. The image of the Pedlar-woman vanishes; in its place appears the figure of a small naked baby.

The Witch. Oh, the baby! I used that once myself; caught an awful cold too. Useless for you. Now how about this orange mixture?

[She pours from the orange bottle. This time the image is that of a stout, jovial, red-faced man. He wears an apron and has a green patch over one eye. Balanced on his head he carries a tray full of various sorts of pies.

The Witch. That's the one-eyed Pieman. Good, but not as good as the Pedlar-woman for your purpose.

The Queen. What is a Pieman?

The Witch. Man who sells pie, stupid; what did you suppose? But a Pieman wouldn't selling combs. Pedlar-woman it is. Green bottle. [She reads.] "Dose, one tablespoonful, with a peppermint after." I haven't got a peppermint, but that was only to take away the taste. [She produces a spoon and uncorks the bottle.]

The Queen. [Hesitating.] Is the taste very bad?

The Witch. Vile. Really, one of the nastiest tastes I ever made. Open your mouth.

The Queen. [Shrinking back.] Er—is being transformed painful?

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The Witch. No-o-o-o, but unpleasant. Feels as though you were being turned inside out like a glove. Open your moth.

The Queen. I think on the whole I'll wait till to-morrow. You see I have an important tea-party at Court this afternoon, and . . .

The Witch. Oh, ho! Cowardy, cowardy custard! Here, Fiddle, here's sport for you. Get the black mantle.

[From the chest, Fiddle whisks a large black cloth embroidered with strange looking symbols, and advances toward the Queen.

The Queen. What is he going to do?

The Witch. Wrap you up so that you can't scratch while I pour this down your throat.

The Queen. But I'm not ready! I must go home first!

[She makes a dash for the door, but Fiddle is before her. Then begins a lively chase about the cave, the Queen running and dodging, Fiddle following and trying to throw the black mantle over her head. The Witch enjoys it all hugely, crying, "Run, Brangomar!" "Catch her, Fiddle!" and slappig her old knees with delight till she is quite out of breath. At last Fiddle succeeds
in cornering Queen Brangomar, and throws the mantle over her head.

The Witch. [Breathless.] Well don, Fiddle, well done! Trip her up and sit on her.

[Fiddle does so. The Witch also sits down on the squirming Queen, and humming happily to herself pours out a tablespoonful of the green mixture.

The Witch. Now, where is her mouth?

The Queen. [In a smothered voice.] I won't take it! I won't!

The Witch. Oh, there it is! Thank you, Brangomar. [She pours the dose through the cloth into the Queen's mouth, and as the Queen writhes she goes on.] I know it tastes bad, but nothing to make such a fuss about. [Suddenly she holds up a warning finger.] I feel her changing! Do you? [Fiddle nods.] Done! Up with her, off with the mantle, and let's see the result.

[Fiddle draws off the mantle. Lo! the Queen has been transformed into the
likeness of the old Pedlar-woman just as it appeared in the steam, basket of goods and all.

The Witch. Splendid! Wouldn't recognise you myself, Brangomar. Hope you haven't lost the poisoned comb. No, here it is in your hand. Now, it wasn't half as bad as you thought it would be, was it?

The Pedlar-Woman. [Crossly.] It was awful! Why—is this my voice?

The Witch. Of course. Different voice with every disguise.

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The Pedlar-Woman. I'm all cramps, too. How do I change back?

The Witch. Dear me; lucky you thought to ask. I might have forgotten. Just say:—

"Peas porridge hot,
"Peas porridge cold,
"Peas porridge in the pot,
"Nine days old;"

but say it backwards like this :

Old days nine,
Pot in the porridge peas,
Cold porridge peas,
Hot porridge peas.

That turns you right side out again.

The Pedlar-Woman. I must remember. Let me see:—"Old days nine . . . " [But the Witch claps her hand over Brangomar's mouth.]

The Witch. Gracious, woman, don't say it yet! We'd have all this to do over again. Really, you are the most senseless— Oh, be off with you. I've had quite enough of you for one day.

The Pedlar-Woman. Now for Snow White! Oh, Hex, once I set this in her hair and see her lying dead—dead before my own eyes . . .

The Witch. [Interrupting.] Don't forget to count one hundred!

The Pedlar-Woman. It will be the happiest moment of my life!

The Witch. Nasty disposition!

The Pedlar-Woman. [Going to the door.] You shan't escape me this time, my little beauty! You have no soft-hearted Berthold to deal with now, but Brangomar, Brangomar her very self! [And off she strides toward the house of the Seven Dwarfs.]

[Left alone with Fiddle, the Witch goes to the blazing fire and again sits down upon it, thoughtfully.
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The Witch. Poor little Snow White! I'm afraid her goose is cooked this time. I'm really sorry for her. I don't bear her any ill will in spite of my pigs' tails. Fiddle, bring my mirror.

[Fiddle brings the mirror, and Witch Hex studies her new appearance carefully.

The Witch. Oh, not so bad after all! They're quite becoming; sure to keep their curl in the dampest weather, and certainly the very latest thing!

the curtain falls