As Tip watched her his uneasiness increased.
"What is that for?" he asked.
"For you," returned Mombi, briefly.
Tip wriggled around upon his stool and stared awhile at the kettle, which was beginning to bubble. Then he would glance at the stern and wrinkled features of the witch and wish he were any place but in that dim and smoky kitchen, where even the shadows cast by the candle upon the wall were enough to give one the horrors. So an hour passed away, during which the silence was only broken by the bubbling of the pot and the hissing of the flames.
Finally, Tip spoke again.
"Have I got to drink that stuff?" he asked, nodding toward the pot.
"Yes," said Mombi.
"What'll it do to me?" asked Tip.
"If it's properly made," replied Mombi, "it will change or transform you into a marble statue."
Tip groaned, and wiped the perspiration from his forehead with his sleeve.
"I don't want to be a marble statue!" he protested.
"That doesn't matter I want you to be one," said the old woman, looking at him severely.
"What use'll I be then?" asked Tip. "There won't be any one to work for you."
"I'll make the Pumpkinhead work for me," said Mombi.
Again Tip groaned.
"Why don't you change me into a goat, or a chicken?" he asked, anxiously. "You can't do anything with a marble statue."
"Oh, yes, I can," returned Mombi. "I'm going to plant a flower garden, next Spring, and I'll put you in the middle of it, for an ornament. I wonder I haven't thought of that before; you've been a bother to me for years."
At this terrible speech Tip felt the beads of perspiration starting all over his body. but he sat still and shivered and looked anxiously at the kettle.
"Perhaps it won't work," he mutttered, in a voice that sounded weak and discouraged.
"Oh, I think it will," answered Mombi, cheerfully. "I seldom make a mistake."
Again there was a period of silence a silence so long and gloomy that when Mombi finally lifted the kettle from the fire it was close to midnight.
27 Full page line-art drawing.
"I DON'T WANT TO BE A MARBLE STATUE."
"You cannot drink it until it has become quite cold," announced the old witch for in spite of the law she had acknowledged practising witchcraft. "We must both go to bed now, and at daybreak I will call you and at once complete your transformation into a marble statue."
With this she hobbled into her room, bearing the steaming kettle with her, and Tip heard her close and lock the door.
The boy did not go to bed, as he had been commanded to do, but still sat glaring at the embers of the dying fire.
29 The Flight of the Fugitives
"It's a hard thing, to be a marble statue," he thought, rebelliously, "and I'm not going to stand it. For years I've been a bother to her, she says; so she's going to get rid of me. Well, there's an easier way than to become a statue. No boy could have any fun forever standing in the middle of a flower garden! I'll run away, that's what I'll do -- and I may as well go before she makes me drink that nasty stuff in the kettle." He waited until the snores of the old witch announced she was fast asleep, and then he arose softly and went to the cupboard to find something to eat.
"No use starting on a journey without food," he decided, searching upon the narrow shelves.
He found some crusts of bread; but he had to look into Mombi's basket to find the cheese she had brought from the village. While turning over the contents of the basket he came upon the pepper-box which contained the "Powder of Life."
"I may as well take this with me," he thought, "or Mombi'll be using it to make more mischief with." So he put the box in his pocket, together with the bread and cheese.
Then he cautiously left the house and latched the door behind him. Outside both moon and stars shone brightly, and the night seemed peaceful and inviting after the close and ill-smelling kitchen.