"Richard, Richard!" mi mum yelled.
"Don't what me! Go down field to old Mrs. Wheelers' house and get me a carton of matches.
"What!" I said in horror.
"You heard me. I'm out of matches. Go down to old ladies house and get me some matches. Here's a shilling and mind you don't lose it on the way."
"I'm not going down there to her house, she's a witch!"
"Don't be bloody daft. There's no such thing as witches."
"There is mum. I've been reading about them in history books at school. They turn little boys into toadstools and little girls into frogs!"
"You daft bugger. Sometimes I'm sorry you learned to read. You're supposed to be getting more brains, not less."
Just then mi dad adds his two penneth, "If brains were gunpowder he wouldn't have enough to blow his hat off!"
"Here's the money. Now go and do as you're told.'
There was no getting out of it now so I begrudgingly took the shilling from mi mums hand.
I wasn't fond of having two sisters. A brother would have been much better to my way of thinking. Sometimes though, they came in handy on occasions such as these. Off to find mi sisters.
"Hey Sheila." I sez. "Do you want to come for a walk?"
"Oh, not far. Just down the field to Mrs. Wheelers house."
"Don't be daft! She's a witch. She'll eat me!"
Now I wish I hadn't teased them about Mrs. Wheeler coming in the dead of night to grab them from their beds. After pleading, emotional blackmail and every other ploy I could think of, she wasn't having a bar of it.
"No, I'm scared!" was her final answer.
I set off on the most dreaded journey of my young life.
'I'll never make it. She'll put me in the big cooking pot she keeps on her stove. Then, she'll eat me all up and no one will know. No more fun and games. I know, Dinah! Dinah, at least she'll come with me.
"Come on Dinah, let's go."
Off we go. At least Dinah loves me. Down the field we go, along the wallside to the far end of field, through snicket to a row of cottages. There were three cottages in all. Mrs. Matlocks' was on one end, an empty one in middle and old Mrs. Wheelers' place was on the end. The dark end! I had only to walk along the end side of her building now. It was a narrow walkway made of flagstones with a tall black-stone wall running alongside it.
'No escape there,'I thought.'Too high.'
On 'tuther side was a muck-middin. (a muck-middin is where the farmer piles up the cow dung when he shovels out his cow sheds.) Nine or ten feet deep of cow clap. No way out there.
Creeping along the narrow pathway I sez, "Come on Dinah, stay close."
Dinah sits down on the path and looks at me. "Let's go, come on, theres now't to be scared of!"
She lays down and looks up at me. "Come on Dinah, don't be daft. She won't eat ya. She doesn't like dogs, they're too tough."
Dinah wasn't budging. She also refused to be pulled. 'This is it. I'm on mi own now.' I thought.
Around the corner of her house I creep, not hardly breathing. Mi heart was banging so loud it was deafening me. The front door was half open so I tried to sneak a look around the door jam. It was no use. There was a thick, long black curtain blocking my view. 'Only one thing left to do now.'I thought. So, I knocked on the open door very quietly, hoping she wouldn't hear me. No answer. The thought flashed across mi mind. 'Leave now while you still can!' I considered it but I knew mi mum would give me a clout, call me stupid and send me back. (I'd done that once before.) I knocked a bit louder. No answer. There was only once course of action left open. I called out to her in my most feeble voice, "Mrs. Wheeler?" No answer. I made one step forward, took a big swallow and called again, "Mrs. Wheeler?" Nothing. Maybe I'm lucky and she's gone out or better still, maybe she's dead!" I decided to make one last shout as loud as I could.
"Who is it?" The reply came.
'Oh no! She's home!' I swallowed hard, "It's me, Richard."
"Come inside." She said.
'Oh God! Please no! Now I'm really done for.'
"Come inside." came the reply again.
This time my throat was so dry I couldn't swallow at all. Slowly, I reached out to touch the curtain. It was made of thick, black velvet and smelled funny. I grabbed the side nearest the far wall and pulled it back a couple of inches. Next, I peered behind the curtain with mi left eye. To my surprise, I couldn't see a thing! It was pitch dark.
"Mrs. Wheeler?" I said, not as loud this time.
Her voice came back, "Come in Richard. I'm not feeling too well today."
I pulled the black curtain to one side and stepped through it. When I let it go it closed behind me. It was dark so I stood there for, what seemed like, hours. Not a sound. I was starting to see different shades of black now. I walked slowly forwards, my left hand tracing the old plastered wall. The smell was getting thicker now as I neared, what looked like, an open doorway with no door. When I reached the doorway it was not quite as dark and I could see into her room. At the far end was an open door leading into kitchen. The curtains were drawn across the window. this window must have looked out onto our filed. To the side of kitchen door was a huge cabinet with cups and saucers on the top shelves. In the middle of the cabinet was a shelf with a porcelain vase on it and an old radio. down below were to large cupboards. On the joining wall was a fireplace with a dull fire going and a massive big cauldron pot. Steam was coming out of the top.
Just then, a voice said,"Come in lad. What do you want?" As my head jerked around, almost off its hinges, I saw her! There she was, in a long black dress done up to the neck. She was lying on an old brass poster bed, propped up on two white-looking pillows.
"What d'ya want lad? I'm not feeling well today."
I heard this squeaky voice say, "Mi mum sent me for a carton of matches."
"Go over to that kitchen cabinet. You'll find 'em in that bottom right-hand cabinet."
Oh no! This meant I had to turn my back on her! I was frozen with fear now.
"Go on." She sez."Hurry up lad!"
I slowly turned towards the cabinet and may way over to the cupboard. Slowly, I bent towards the cupboard door. My little fist was aching from squeezing the shilling. I reached out to touch the door handle. Just then, a black cat with green eyes run out from under kitchen cabinet! I had my first heart attack, on the spot! I'd already imagined her coming towards me with the meat chopper in her hand as my back was turned.
"AHHHHHH!" I let out a yell and spun around. To my surprise, she was still laid on bed. She was smiling at me as she said, "It's only my cat Tommy. He won't hurt ya."
I turned around quickly, pulling the door open. Inside there were lots of cartons of matches. I grabbed the first box, then closed the door and spun around fast as I could.
"How's ya mum getting on?" She said.
"Good, thank you."
She must have seen my clenched fist squeezing the shilling, so she sez "Leave money on top of cupboard, lad."
I reached out and put shilling on top of cupboard. Mi hand was so sweaty the shilling was stuck to mi palm. I had to put matches under mi arm to remove shilling from mi hand.
"Run along then." She said. "I'm tired now."
I didn't need any encouragement at all, as I headed for the doorway. I hit the passage at full speed, matches in hand. Straight through the black curtain I went, not bothering to part it from the wall.
As I hit daylight, Dinah was waiting for me. "Come on Dinah, we're off!" Down the passage way, round corner, along wall and straight up our field. Neck and neck we ran, Dinah and me, crashing through our farm-house door and into front room, Dinah still barking.
"What's up with you?" mi mum sez. "Can't you ever walk? Do you have to run everywhere, even in house?"
Mum looked down at Dinah and said, "What's he been up to Dinah? More mischief as usual?" Dinah never said a word. She just wagged her tail.
When I saw mi sisters, they said, "What happened Richard?"
"Now't, I wasn't scared a bit!"
From that time on I never teased them about the Matchbox Witch again. I could always think of some't else to tease 'em with!