THE WITCHING WITCHES

Phoebe was delighted when Jean told her how glad she was that Leigh was
in the club. “Do you know,” said Jean, “if it had not been that you
have liked her so much, I would not have called her that afternoon.
They seemed like such reserved people and have so much money and travel
so much, or I suppose they do, that I imagined Mrs. Dudley would not
care for us girls, and Leigh never seemed to. But I understand now.”

“She didn’t want to show how lonesome she was,” said Phoebe, “and then
she hasn’t been around much with other girls anyway. She was sick and
tutored, at home or wherever they were.”

The whole seven, Leigh included, were going to Jean’s after their good
supper at Leigh’s. The purpose was to inspect the attic once more.

“You feel better, Jean, don’t you, to have some sort of a real name
picked out, even if it may be only temporary?”

“Yes, Phoebe, after what I said to Billy. Some day perhaps I’ll tell
him all about it.”

“None of the rest of us will, and it must be understood that if we take
in other girls they are never to know how this started. We’ll probably
forget it anyway. It isn’t important to the S. P.’s.”

The girls were delighted with the roomy attic that was floored over
the entire house. Full of everything, it had not showed how large it
was. “Oh, Jean,” cried Fran, stooping her tall height a little as
she explored a corner near the eaves, “the room will be the regular
Witches’ Retreat, and we can have all this to fix up for a Hallowe’en
party or anything!”

“Yes,” eagerly seconded Leigh. “The _sanctum sanctorum_ we needn’t let
anybody see, if we want to be mysterious, but this would be wonderful,
as Fran says.”

“I wouldn’t want to wait for Hallowe’en,” said Jean. “Let’s have an
April Shower or a May Day, before it gets too hot and ask the Black
Wizards to have a stunt.” Then Jean gave a little squeal, for the one
electric light at the head of the stairs and another shining from the
room did not disperse all the shadows and she had not noticed that
someone else had come upstairs. It was Judge Gordon.

“Oh, Daddy how you scared me!” she cried.

“Sorry, Jean. I just came up to see what these witching witches need. I
see that we must have more lights, unless you prefer darkness for your
spells.”

“We wouldn’t need much more light until our party, but if you’re having
it wired it would be good to have it when we want it, any time. Of
course we could use candles.”

“And burn up the place. No, I’ll have proper lights. What else?”

“The running water doesn’t run and the chimney is choked or whatever
flue that is. The stove smokes, at least, and couldn’t we have a
fireplace instead?”

“You don’t want much, do you?” asked the judge, laughing. “But if
you will investigate, you will find that a little fireplace has been
boarded up. If you will be careful about fire, I’ll have it opened up
and a grate set in. The radiator was fixed to-day.”

The girls found the room, or “Witches’ Cavern,” by Molly’s suggestion,
quite warm enough for a meeting. They closed the door upon themselves
for private conference after Judge Gordon had left them.

“Do you think that your father heard all we said about witches?” asked
Bess. “He called us witching witches, which was very nice of him.”

“He probably heard what we said about Hallowe’en,” Jean replied.
“Anyhow, he suggested at noon that if the boys were Black Wizards, we
girls ought to be some sort of witches. He had walked home with Jimmy
Standish and Jimmy told him the latest school gossip, I guess. How
about it, Nan?”

“Nobody knows how all these things get around,” said Nan Standish. “But
it’s a good suggestion. Why not have Orders? The Order of the Witch or
Wings, for the bird division, for instance.”

“‘Swooping Pelicans’ would be better,” said Leigh quickly. “They look
just like old witches riding the waves in Florida!”

“So do the kingfishers all scrooched up on a limb over the lake,”
suggested Fran.

“And how about a little green heron watching for that next fish?”
queried Bess.

“This club’s getting altogether too smart,” laughed Jean. “Nan, take
these things down quick before we forget ’em! Stormy Petrel is another
bird name with S. P., and haven’t we a Phoebe bird and a Crane already?”

“Help, help!” cried Nan, sharpening her pencil. “Swooping
Pelican–Stormy Petrel, any more S. P.’s?”

Nan scribbled away, taking notes. Nor was she without some excellent
ideas of her own. For the next hour or so the girls made their plans
with many a laugh and chuckle. Leigh, who always had such pretty
things, said that she could bring some cushions for the couch, which
Mrs. Gordon had already covered with a gay couch-cover or robe. Fran
had some curtains that she would offer.

“Maybe you won’t like them, though,” she added. “I bought them myself
for my room when I was about ten years old, and Mother never would let
me put them up, since my room is at the front of the house, like this,
to be sure. Oh, I suppose they won’t do! They have all sort of crazy
things in the pattern, peacocks and birds and I don’t know what.”

“Why, that would be fine for Stealthy Prowlers, Fran,” said Jean.
“Bring them over and we can see. Mother has some plain draperies that
she is fixing. Those will show behind the shades, but we can have our
gay curtains inside of those. We’d have to have something to brighten
things up. And I have a grand idea–that is, if you think it’s grand,
of a witches caldron, right in the middle of the room, with a fire
under it, you know, or things fixed to look like one, and maybe an
electric bulb hidden in it.

“And let’s not have our witches all in black, since the wizards
will be, I suppose. Let’s have yellow and black, or red and black,
or–something!”

“Why not have each order of witches dressed differently?” asked Molly.

“In other words, each girl have a separate costume?” said Bess, in
smiling reference to their limited numbers.

“I suppose so,” Molly replied, “but we’ll probably have more girls in
outdoor things, won’t we?”

“That is to be decided,” spoke Jean quickly. It would not do to talk of
this as yet. Molly would have everybody, dear girl that she was, but
it would not always do. “By the way, girls, Dad said that we wanted
to be careful not to make any of the boys mad about us or get mad
ourselves–of course he did not put it that way, but that was what he
meant. He heard me gibbering to Mother about things, you know. I’ve had
to tell her quite a lot, of course. But I told my father that we were
being ‘just wonderful’ not to get provoked at the names the boys make
up for us, and that we were planning to _entertain_ the Black Wizards,
provided they would _condescend_ to an attic party. Dad just laughed
and told me that if we advertised plenty of refreshments he thought
that the Black Wizards would come. I said that we liked eats ourselves
and that the attic party would be a real supper, moreover, he could
come up and have supper with us!”

“I think that your father is just too nice for anything,” cried Bess,
warmly. “Just think of all the trouble and expense, too, in fixing this
up for us!”

“Dad likes to do things to the house, Bess. Besides he said he hoped
we’d wake this sleepy old town up and show the folks what boys and
girls needed in this ‘day and generation.’ I don’t imagine that he
wants us to do anything startling, though.”

Here there was an interruption from Nan. “Being secretary to this club
is just awful. Do you want me to put down all your old suggestions, or
wait till we really do something?” Nan was holding up her pencil with a
comical expression of despair.

“No, Nan,–you might make a few jottings of anything you think is
important, for fear the person that makes the suggestion might forget
it. This is not a formal meeting, anyhow.”

So spoke the president, and Nan replied with a twinkle, “When have we
had a formal meeting? Tell me that!”




“Echo answers, ‘When’?” laughed Jean.

And as informally this conference went on, among girls who were going
to try something without a real leader. As yet their plans were
unsettled, but they were evolving from chaos quite rapidly. The world
was theirs in one sense, and girls in a small town have some advantages
over others. It is easy for them to get together and it is only a step,
figuratively speaking, into the country, where wonderful things happen
all the time for those who have eyes to see them.

At present, fixing the “club room” stood first. Second, there was a
decision to give the Attic Party as soon as possible, by way of opening
the club room, or dedicating it. Then, meantime, how much should they
tell of what they were doing, and how could they keep it a secret club
if they had the party?

The president had things to say about this.

“Considering the _way_ this club was _formed_, I imagine that the less
_we say_ right now to the boys, about our plans, the _better_. I’d
dearly love to know what they are doing, but suppose we let them be
curious about _us_, instead of showing too much curiosity about _them_.
We can get up enough funny things to do ourselves, even if their doings
are funnier; don’t you think so?” All this was in Jean’s own emphatic
manner.

“_And_,” she added, “the Attic Party is going to do wonders to
everybody’s disposition. Remembering how Billy’s crowing about the
Black Wizards made me feel like getting even–in a way, let’s remember
how they’ll feel if we act superior or anything like that. Dad is
right, and this ought to be fun, pure and simple.”

The other girls agreed, though Nan remarked that she agreed “with
reservations.” “If Jimmy starts anything at home in the crowing line, I
may–,” but Nan stopped and laughed, then asked what the girls wanted
Jean and herself to say to Miss Haynes.

“Maybe you’d better not suggest anything about camping at first,
girls,” Phoebe suggested. “Just ask her if she knows what other girls
do about outdoor work and where we could find out and what she sees on
her trips, and if we’re going to have any field trips with her, and–”
Phoebe stopped, for they all were laughing at the long list she was
making.

“I think that we’d better add Phoebe to the committee,” giggled the
president. “All those in favor of adding Phoebe Wood to the committee,
say ‘ay’!”