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Tippity Witchit’s Hallowe’en

This is one of my favorite stories ever. It was written by Olive Beaupre Miller and published in the 1920s as part of a collection of stories called My Book House. I believe that the copyright has expired. At the end of this post, there is a pdf version of the story, so you can print it out if you like. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I always have.

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tw1Two round, yellow eyes glowed like little lanterns in the darkness of the barn. Those eyes belonged to a kitten by the name of Tippity Witchit. He was all jet black except for a tiny white spot on the very tip of his tail and he lay curled up in the straw with his mother, a nice yellow Tabby, and all his brothers and sisters. His eyes were still wide open while all the rest were asleep, because he was very angry. “I want to leave you, Mother, to go out and see the world.” That’s what he had said that day.

But his mother had said: “My darling, you are still a very small kitten. When you have grown somewhat older, you shall go out and see the world.”

Tippity Witchit sulked. The idea of telling him he was only a little kitten! Giving himself a shake, he got up from the straw. He was as big as the next cat and able to meet all adventures that might befall the cat tribe – anywhere in the world! Sneaking off to the door, he slipped across the barnyard and out on the long stretch of highway that ran to the wide, wide world. Oh, what a moon was shining! It turned all the fields to silver. And little mists were rising shimmering over the meadows. He was out in a white world of moonlight with little black shadows dancing here and there on the edges. He was out like a great big cat in the mystery of the night!

tw21

Strutting along on his way, shivering a little with cold, for the time was late October, he saw a field where the cornstalks stood piled up in stacks like tepees of the Indians with yellow pumpkins lying all around them on the ground. The whole field swam in moonlight. It glittered and it glistened! Tippity Witchit leapt! He bounced on down the road half-bursting with delight.

tw3aBut then he saw something different. He passed a dried up garden and there stood a wild-looking scarecrow, wearing an old felt hat and an old black suit of man’s clothes. That scarecrow certainly gave young Tippity Witchit a start! He quieted down in an instant. But he said to himself very boldly: “I’m a big cat, I am! I’m not afraid of a thing in all the whole, wide world!”

Just the same, he trembled when he came to the very next cornfield. The corn here had not been cut; it stood in ghostly rows, like a bank of withered old witches. Its long dried leaves hung down like ghostly withered old arms, its tassels streamed out every which way like straggly hair on a hag. “I’m not afraid of a thing,” he had to repeat to himself.

tw4

But as Tippity Witchit was looking, he thought he heard a low chuckle. A little light appeared, dancing over a meadow. Here, there, and nowhere, it went!

tw5“Hey, there, Will-o’-the-Wisp!” he certainly heard a chorus of shrill little bell-like voices call to that impish light. And the silver mists on the fields all of a sudden seemed to have millions of bright little eyes. There were sprites there laughing in the moonlight! Their filmy, long, white robes went trailing, curling, swirling.

And the mischievous little light that was the Will-o’-the-Wisp, began to dance with the mist sprites. Hide and seek, they played till all the world seemed alive and full of strange little chuckles. Tippity Witchit chuckled and began to dance himself.

tw6Then Tippity Witchit heard above those chuckles a cackling, a queer kind of cackling laughter like the cackles of old Biddy Hen. And, up there against the face of the big round silver moon, he saw a black figure sailing – an old lady with a tall peaked hat and a black robe floating behind her, riding along on a broomstick and stroking a huge, black cat. She sailed right across the sky; and behind her – there came in perfect triangular formation – a bevy of big, black bats soaring on big, black wings.

tw7aThe Old Witch came circling and circling, lower and lower and lower, till she landed right in the field before that hag-like row of shriveled old corn witches. And, the squadron of big black bats, breaking their orderly ranks, flew and fluttered about in a dusky cloud overhead.

“Land of living kittens!” Tippity Witchit cried, “Life is exciting at last!”

Cackling and cackling and cackling, the Old Witch waved her broomstick and that row of old corn witches suddenly came to life. They began to rustle a little and then to crackle and snap! They waved their long, withered arms and danced in their even rows in a kind of drill like soldiers. Their arms moved back and forth; they swayed on their long, thin bodies; their hair streamed out in the wind; and they rustled and crackled and snapped.

tw8

“Miaow, miaow, miaow!” went the old Witch’s big black cat. Then hundreds of other black cats came running out of the shadows. They all began to dance, miaowing and caterwauling and making a hideous din.

“Here’s something to brag about!” Tippity Witchit cried. “Won’t I tell a good story when I get home again!”

But, just at that moment, Old Mother Witch looked down in the moonlight and spied young Tippity Witchit.

“Cack, cack, cack!” she laughed. “You’re a nice young Thomas Cat, and the proper color for me! I’ve only to wave my broomstick and make you my cat forever like all these other black cats. Then you can follow me out in the wide, wide world and frolic and dance in the moonlight till the very last end of time.”

Well, Tippity Witchit went cold and yet he was all on fire! He tingled and trembled and shivered. He wanted to join that mad throng.

“Ah, but!” said Old Mother Witch. “I see a white spot on your tail. You can never be my cat until you are, tip to nose, as black as they sky at midnight!”

Tippity crumpled up. To lose such fun for a white spot!

tw9a“Never mind, young cat. I’ll remedy that spot.” Old Mother Witch waved her broomstick; and, in a second of time, who came shambling along up the road, but the scarecrow out of the garden with a few little carrots and turnips gamboling along at his heels.  He was swinging his long, empty sleeves and shuffling his great big feet! The limp, black legs of his pants were bending at very odd places! His black hat was jammed so far down it sat on top of his shoulders! Wild little wisps of straw-stuffing stuck out in crazy fashion! And one of his handless arms held an old watering-pot.

“Get me some ink from the shadows.” Old Mother Witch called out, and the scarecrow gave one great dive into the deepest shadow. Tippity Witchit could see the blackness of night like black water pour in a smooth black stream, as out of some unseen faucet, into the watering-pot.

“Sprinkle it now on the white spot on the tail of this Thomas Cat,” Old Mother Witch commanded. The scarecrow had lifted the pot and was just on the very point of pouring the ink on the white spot when, all at once, Tippity Witchit heard a miaowing and running. Something came leaping and bounding, hurrying up the road. Jerking around in surprise, Tippity Witchit saw his mother come running toward him.  The ink, pouring out as he turned, missed the spot on his tail and smeared in a big black shadow out on the ground beside him.

“Tipity Witchit, don’t!” his mother screeched in terror.  “Keep that white spot on your tail. It’s Hallowe’en, my child! If the Old Witch gets you tonight, you’ll never come home again.” Before she could say any more the Old Witch raised her broomstick. She flourished it in the air, and Tippity Witchit’s mother was suddenly turned to china. A fine, yellow china cat shining there in the moonlight, she stood – unable to move, unable to speak a word – frozen in the very act of leaping along the road. She looked like a beautiful ornament for somebody’s mantlepiece.

tw10

“Miaow! Aow! Aow!” Tippity Witchit’s heart was smitten for a moment! His mother! His poor mother! But the dance was so very enticing! He wanted to caper and leap, to dance with that crazy crowd.

“Pour it on now,” said the Witch.

Tippity Witchit felt creepy. His mother! His poor mother! He wished and yet he feared. Well, he was a grown-up cat! “I don’t rush into things!” he threw out his chest a little. “I’ll just think the matter over!”

tw11

“Cack, cack, cack,” laughed the Witch. “Then come along with me, and see what you shall see and think what you shall think.” She took him up on her broomstick and oh, what a thrill was that! They soared up into the air and off to a neighboring cornfield. Breathless, Tippity Witchit clutched with all four feet the handle of that old broomstick. Such a ride as that he had never had in his life!

tw12

They circled over the field and Tippity saw below the corn stacked up in piles with pumpkins lying about as big and round as the moon. And the crazy cats and the scarecrows and the little carrots and turnips cam gamboling through the cornstalks. Down dived the witch with a zip, alighting on the ground. Pumpkins lay all around. She flourished her magic broomstick and all at once those pumpkins suddenly started to grim. They had eyes! They had mouths! They had noses! They had little lights shining in them! Turned into jack-o-lanterns, they started to gambol, too; and the lights in their little heads went glimmering here and there, roguishly winking and blinking.

tw13

“Hey there, merry fellows,” Tippity Witchit managed to get enough courage to shout.

Again the Old Witch raised her broomstick and this time the stack of corn turned into Indian tepees. Before each tepee, there sat a ghostly old Indian brave. Made of thin air were those braves! They had no more real body than the filmiest kind of night clouds. Serious, grave, and stately, they sat and they smoked and they smoked! And the smoke from their long Indian pipes rolled out and lost itself in the white mist over the cornfields. They sat and they smoked and they smoked and they watched the mad dance going on.

tw14

The will-o’-the-wisps came flickering. They drew up their flames long and lean. They leapt up into the air. Whisk! They were gone altogether! The eyes of the mist sprites glittered. They trailed their white skirts and they gamboled. The jack-o-lanterns frolicked, grinning and winking their lights. The little carrots and turnips broke away from the scarecrow and tumbled with headlong somersaults into the merry-making. A thousand little, dried leaves blew in like crazy things – zipping and flipping and fluttering. The corn witches swayed themselves forward as far as they could reach on their long, thin, shriveled bodies. Old Mother Witch left her broomstick and whirled around with the scarecrow! The cats danced in crazy couples; the bats sailed, dipped, and fluttered in wild antics overhead. All the world seemed to twitter, to chuckle and cackle and snap. And above that whole merry scene, the old Moon laughed till he cried, his tears coming down to the earth in a shower of silver moonbeams.

tw15

“This is the life for a cat!” Tippity Witchit miaowed. Would he pay too big a price if he gave himself up forever to follow Old Mother Witch? What dancing! Oh, what dancing! A hundred times, he was tempted. He followed new here, now there, the revel of those crazy madcaps. A hundred times, as he watched, the scarecrow dashed from the dancing at Old Mother Witch’s command to chase after Tippity Witchit and sprinkle the ink on his tail.

But there was, by chance, one thing that Old Mother Witch had forgotten when she turned Mother Cat into china. She had frozen the pleading and begging in Mother Cat’s pleading eyes into a fixed expression. So, wherever Tippity Witchit went in that wild night’s wild wanderings, his mother’s eyes shone on him, begging, pleading, imploring. That look kept just one little, small grain of sense alive in the head of the giddy cat child. Mother Cat couldn’t talk, but still she could speak with her eyes. And so, every time the scarecrow stole up on Tippity Witchit, Tippity Witchit whisked off and out of the scarecrow’s reach.

For hours and hours and hours, the dance went on in the moonlight. And then the Old Witch got impatient. The more that little black cat kept himself out of her clutches, the more determined she grew that she would get him for keeps. And so, at last, she cackled to a sleek little back girl kitten: “Go and ask that standoffish young Thomas Cat to dance!”

tw16aAnd the sleek, little, black girl kitten came and miaowed very sweetly: “O won’t you dance with me?”

Well, Tippity Witchit just couldn’t say “no” to an offer like that. He gave up resisting completely and went waltzing off with the girl cat, out in the midst of the frolic. He whirled and he whirled and he whirled, until he was dizzy with whirling. Life was a merry-go-round, a jolly old whirligig! At last he fell down on the ground, his thoughts all whirling inside him. And now he was far out of reach of his mother’s imploring eyes. The last grain of sense he had disappeared in a buzzing and whizzing. The little girl cat gave a giggle and made a sign to the scarecrow. The scarecrow came up with his inkpot; Old Mother Witch stood cackling, ready to raise her broomstick, and Tippity Witchit’s last hour as a nice, homey, family cat with the love of his mother to cheer him, seemed, alas, to have struck. But just at that moment, “Oh! Ah! Ah! Oh!” a shriek burst from Old Mother Witch. The sky in the East showed pink and the moon dipped suddenly down over the edge of the world. Dawn, the dawn was coming! The sun sent a warning beam!

In an instant that mad world changed. Tippity Witchit came to and opened one eye to see it.

The leaves flopped down and lay still, so did the carrots and turnips. The will-o’-the-wisps and mist sprites disappeared as by magic! The bats flew off in a twinkling! The old Indian braves at their smoking vanished into thin air, their tepees were stacks of corn; the jack-o-lanterns were pumpkins! The scarecrow flew back to his garden to be nothing more than a scarecrow! The ghostly old corn witches were only rows of dried corn. And Old Mother Witch, what a change! She turned into a spider – hurrying, hurrying, hurrying to roof herself over with cobwebs and hide close down to the earth. The black cats turned into ants and scurried away at a great rate. And that was the end, for a year,  of that madcap Hallowe’en revel! Only one night a year to gambol in the moonlight. All the rest of time to be nothing more than an ant! Tippity Witchit shivered! What had had escaped!

tw17a“Miaow! Miaow!” he began to call for his mother. And, at that moment, flash! A sunbeam struck Mother Cat. In one brilliant sparkle of light, Mother Cat was released from the spell that bound her in china. She sprang up high in the air. Then she leapt up to Tippity Witchit and took him by his ear. “Now, we’ll go home,” she said, “and don’t you go wandering again until you are really as big as you thought yourself tonight!”

And Tippity Witchit said, “Miaow!” But what he meant by that, you will have to guess for yourself.

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