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110. The Children and the Witch.

Emily Alexander, Mandeville.

There was a poor man and his wife and two children. He had nothing to give them but a slice of bread and cold water for the day. So one day he got up, took the children into the bush and pretended to be chopping the tree; then, as the children were playing, slipped away. When the wife asked for the children, he told her he had left them in the bush and she fretted and worried all day. Life became easier for them day by day, and the man became sorry that he had left them in the wood.

The children, when they missed their father, started to travel through the wood to see if they could find their way home. A little black bird said to them, "Follow me and I will show you your way home!" but this little black bird was an Old Witch. It carried them to a house made out of nothing but cakes, sweets and all manner of nice things, and then the bird vanished away from them. But they were so glad to get the cakes and sweets that they began eating at once. Immediately as they touched the first cake, the door of the house opened and a very ugly-looking blind old woman came out to them and asked them what they were doing there; so they told her how they had been lost in the bush. She took them into the house, put one in a cage and had one to do all the work of the house. Every evening she went to feed the one in the cage, and asked him to stick out his hand to see if he was getting fat; so the one left in the house gave him a bone to stretch out instead, because the Old Witch was blind and could only feel. The one in the cage was getting very fat and rosy. One day she went to the cage and asked him to stretch out his hand and the child stretched out the bone; so she became very impatient, said she couldn't wait any longer and would kill him that very day for dinner, and asked the one in the house to heat up the oven. Then the Witch told the one in the house to see if the oven was hot enough; the Witch was going to shut the door on her and let her stay in there and bake. But the girl was smart and said she did not know how to get into it, she must show her the way. As the Witch went into the oven, she pushed

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her in and shut the door, and the Witch stood in there squealing till she was burned to death . Then the girl ran and took the boy out of the cage, took some of the cakes and nice things off the house, and ran to their own home. The parents were so glad to see them that they kept a ball for them that night, and they told the story how they had killed the Witch.

Next: 111. The Boy and the Mermaid.