The Little Leftover Witch
1 The Broken Broom
It was Halloween.
The wind moaned like a thousand ghosts at the windows of the houses on Mockingbird Lane. Black cats chased one another across rooftops. And ghosts and goblins of all sizes ran through the streets.
Lucinda Doon was dressed like a ghost. A white sheet covered her clothes. It covered her yellow-gold hair and small brown shoes. It hid everything about her, except two laughing blue eyes, which peered out of two round holes.
She said, “Boooooo,” at Mr. Doon, her father. She said, “Boooooo,” at Itchabody, her great black cat. She went all around the block and frightened all the neighbors.
“Time to go upstairs to bed now,” said Mrs. Doon, when Lucinda came back into her own house. “Halloween is over.”
So Lucinda took off her ghost costume and hung it on the clothes tree. She washed her face and hands and put on her warm pajamas and crawled into bed. Then
her mother kissed her tenderly and turned out the light.
Just as Lucinda was about to close her eyes she glanced out of the window—and thought she saw a witch! A black-clad witch, riding her broom across a pumpkin-yellow moon.
The little girl shivered happily and snuggled down under the covers to dream of the excitement she had had that night.
But Halloween wasn’t over. Not quite.
In the middle of the night Lucinda woke up with a start. She heard a strange noise outside the window. It sounded like somebody crying. Or perhaps like somebody trying not to cry.
It was pitch-dark now. But Lucinda got out of bed and turned on the light and opened the window.
There, on the branch of the big bare mulberry tree, sat a bedraggled little witch! She wore a peaked hat. She had big staring eyes. And something like a raindrop ran down her face and fell off the tip of her pointed nose.
“Who are you?” cried Lucinda.
“I’m a witch, as you should plainly see,” said the little witch crossly.
“Why are you crying?”
“I’m not crying.” The little witch rubbed her eyes with the back of her fist. “I broke my broom and fell from the sky,” she said. “And the sky was wet.”
“How are you going to get home?” asked Lucinda anxiously.
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be sitting in this tree,” snapped the strange little creature. “But I do know one thing—if I don’t get back up there before the sun rises, I’ll have to stay on the ground for a whole year. Till next Halloween.”
Lucinda was almost sure she saw another tear. But she was too kind to mention it. She said, “Maybe I can help you. Mother has a brand-new broom. If you will come inside you may test it and see if it will fly.”
The big branch was very near the window. Lucinda held out her arms and helped the little witch crawl inside the room.
Itchabody the cat came out from under the bed. He arched his back and his fur stood up like pins when he saw the visitor. “Meeeow!” he said whiningly.
“I pull cats’ tails,” said the little witch.
Itchabody backed away, hissing. But as Lucinda and the witch crept down the stairs to the broom closet, the cat scampered past them. When they got to the kitchen he rubbed his back against the visitor’s long black robes and began to purr.
Lucinda took out her mother’s brand-new broom. The little witch got astride it and jumped up and down. But the broom refused to fly.
Then she said:
But still the broom made no move to lift her from the floor. “It isn’t magic,” said the little witch ungraciously. “I knew it wouldn’t work.”
“Let’s try the dust mop,” suggested Lucinda helpfully.
So they tried the dust mop. They tried the sponge mop. They even tried Mrs. Doon’s electric vacuum cleaner. And the little witch chanted all the magic words she knew, but she simply could not fly.
“That’s too bad,” said Lucinda. She felt very sorry for the little witch, in spite of her bad manners.
The little witch was worried, too. “I don’t want to stay around here a whole year,” she said. “I can’t stand people!”
“Well, I’m afraid you’ll have to stay, at least for tonight,” replied Lucinda. “It’s too cold to go outside again. You may sleep in my bed, and in the morning my father will think of a way to get you back home.”
Lucinda and the little witch climbed back upstairs, but the little witch flatly refused to share Lucinda’s bed.
“I don’t like beds,” she said. “I like dark places. I’ll sleep in the closet.”
So, while Lucinda crawled back into her warm, cozy bed, the weird little figure in the pointed hat slipped into the closet and closed the door.
Itchabody the cat joined her there.