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Bedknob and Broomstick

Mary Norton

  Bed-Knob and Broomstick

  Mary Norton

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Table of Contents










  1. How They Met Her

  2. More About Her

  3. A False Start

  4. The Preliminary Canter

  5. The Police Station

  6. Magic in the Courtyard

  7. Carey Has an Idea

  8. The Island of Ueepe

  9. Account Rendered

  10. Farewell


  1. Lost and Found

  2. And Lost Again

  3. In for a Penny

  4. The "Past"

  5. A Visitor

  6. Magic in Moderation

  7. A Change of Mind

  8. So Near

  9. And Yet So Far

  10. And Farther Still

  About the Author


  A Combined Edition of The Magic Bed-Knob and Bonfires and Broomsticks




  Copyright © 1957 by Mary Norton

  Copyright 1943 by Mary Norton

  Copyright renewed 1985, 1971 by Mary Norton

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or

  transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,

  including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval

  system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should

  be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,

  Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

  First Odyssey Classics edition 1990

  First published 1943 and 1957

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Norton, Mary.

  [Magic bed-knob.]

  Bed-knob and broomstick/Mary Norton; illustrated by Erik Blegvad.

  p. cm.

  "A combined edition of 'The magic bed-knob' and

  'Bonfires and broomsticks.'"

  "An Odyssey/Harcourt Young Classic."

  Summary: With the powers they acquire from a spinster who is studying

  to be a witch, three English children have a series of exciting and

  perilous adventures traveling on a flying bed that takes them to a

  London police station, a tropical island, and back in time to

  the seventeenth century.

  [1. Witches—Fiction. 2. Magic—Fiction. 3. Space and time—Fiction.

  4. England—Fiction.] I. Blegvad, Erik, ill.

  II. Norton, Mary. Bonfires and broomsticks. 2000. III. Title.

  PZ7.N8248Bb 2000

  [Fic]—dc21 99-89153

  ISBN 0-15-202450-6 ISBN 0-15-202456-5 (pb)

  Printed in the United States of America

  C E G H F D

  G H (pb)

  To Kristoffer and Peter



  The Magic Bed-Knob



  3. A FALSE START [>]







  10. FAREWELL [>]


  Bonfires and Broomsticks



  3. IN FOR A PENNY [>]

  4. THE "PAST" [>]

  5. A VISITOR [>]



  8. SO NEAR [>]

  9. AND YET SO FAR [>]



  1. How They Met Her

  Once upon a time there were three children, and their names were Carey, Charles, and Paul. Carey was about your age, Charles a little younger, and Paul was only six.

  One summer, they were sent to Bedfordshire to stay with an aunt. She was an old aunt and she lived in an old square house—which lay in a garden where no flowers grew. There were lawns and shrubs and cedars but no flowers, which made the garden seem grave and sad.

  The children were shy of the house, with its big hall and wide stairways; they were shy of Elizabeth—the stern old housemaid—and they were shy of their aunt, too, because she had pale blue eyes with pinkish edges and did not often smile. But they loved the garden and river that ran through it and the countryside beyond with its tangled hedges and sweet meadow grass.

  They were out all day.

  They played in the barns, they played by the river, and they played in the lanes and on the hills. They were punctual for meals because they were visitors and good children at heart. One day slipped into another, and all the days were alike—until Miss Price hurt her ankle. And that's where the story begins.

  You all know somebody rather like Miss Price. She wore gray coats and skirts and had a long thin neck with a scarf round it made of Liberty silk with a paisley pattern. Her nose was sharply pointed, and she had very clean, pink hands. She rode on a high bicycle with a basket in front, and she visited the sick and taught the piano. She lived in a neat little house that stood in a lane at the bottom of the garden, and the children knew her by sight and always said "Good morning." In all the village there was none so ladylike as Miss Price.

  Now, one day, the children decided to go mushroom picking before breakfast. They awoke almost before the night had drained away from the sleeping house and tiptoed through the hall in their stocking feet. When they got outside, the garden was very still and drenched in dew, and, as they walked, their shoes left black smudges in the pearly grass. They spoke in whispers because it seemed as if the world, except the birds, were still asleep.

  Suddenly, Paul stood still, staring down the slope of the lawn toward the darkness of the cedars. "What's that?"

  They all stopped and they all stared.

  "It moved," Paul told them. "Come on, let's see."

  Carey sped ahead on her long legs. "It's a person," she called back, and then her step grew slower. She waited until they caught up with her. "It's—" Her voice was hushed with surprise. "It's Miss Price!"

  And so it was, sitting there on the wet ground under the cedar. Her gray coat and skirt were torn and crumpled, and her hair hung down in wisps.

  "Oh, poor Miss Price," cried Carey, running up, "whatever's the matter? Have you hurt yourself?"

  Miss Price looked back with frightened eyes, and then she looked away.

  "It's my ankle," she muttered.

  Carey fell on her knees in the damp grass. Miss Price's ankle was indeed the strangest shape. "Oh, poor Miss Price," cried Carey again, and the tears came to her eyes. "It must hurt terribly."

  "It does," said Miss Price.

  "Run to the house, Charles," ordered Carey, "and tell them to ring up the doctor."

  Then a strange look came over Miss Price's face, and her eyes opened wide as if with fright. "No, no," she stammered, gripping Carey's arm. "No, not that, just help me to get home."

  The children looked at her, but they were not surprised. It did not even occur to them to wonder what Miss Price mig
ht be doing so early in the morning in their aunt's garden.

  "Help me to get home," repeated Miss Price. "I can put one arm round your shoulders"—she looked at Carey—"and one round his. Then, perhaps, I can hop."

  Paul watched seriously as Carey and Charles leaned toward Miss Price. Then he sighed. "And I'll carry this," he said obligingly, picking up a garden broom.

  "We don't want that," Carey told him sharply. "Put it up against the tree."

  "But it's Miss Price's."

  "How do you mean—Miss Price's? It's the garden broom."

  Paul looked indignant. "It isn't ours. It's hers. It's what she fell off. It's what she rides on."

  Carey and Charles stood up, their faces red from stooping, and stared at Paul.

  "What she rides on?"

  "Yes. Don't you, Miss Price?"

  Miss Price became paler than ever. She looked from one child to another. She opened her mouth and then she shut it again, as if no words would come.

  "You're quite good at it, aren't you, Miss Price?" Paul went on encouragingly. "You weren't at first."

  Then Miss Price began to cry. She pulled out her handkerchief and held it over her face. "Oh, dear," she said, "oh, dear! Now I suppose everybody knows."

  Carey put her arms round Miss Price's neck. It was what you always did to people when they cried.

  "It's all right, Miss Price. Nobody knows. Nobody knows at all. Paul didn't even tell us. It's quite all right. I think it's wonderful to ride on a broomstick."

  "It's very difficult," said Miss Price, but she blew her nose.

  They helped her to her feet. Carey felt puzzled and very excited, but she didn't like to ask any more. Slowly and painfully they made their way through the garden and down the lane that led to Miss Price's house. The rising sun glimmered through the hedgerows and turned the dust in the roadway to pale gold. Carey and Charles went very carefully, and Miss Price flapped between like a large gray bird with a broken wing.

  Paul walked behind—with the broomstick.

  2. More About Her

  Afterward, on the way home, Carey and Charles tackled Paul.

  "Paul, why didn't you tell us you'd seen Miss Price on a broomstick?"

  "I dunno."

  "But, Paul, you ought to have told us. We'd have liked to see it, too. It was very mean of you, Paul."

  Paul did not reply.

  "When did you see her?"

  "In the night."

  Paul looked stubborn. He felt as if he might be going to cry. Miss Price always passed so quickly. She would have been gone before he could call anyone, and they would have said at once, "Don't be silly, Paul." Besides, it had been his secret, his nightly joy. His bed was beside the window, and when the moon was full, it shone on his pillow and wakened him. It had been exciting to lie there, with his eyes fixed on the pale sky beyond the ragged blackness of the cedar boughs. Some nights he did not wake up. Other nights he woke up and she did not come. But he saw her often enough, and each time he saw her, she had learned to fly a little better. At first she had wobbled so, balanced sideways on the stick, that he wondered why she did not ride astride. She would grip the broomstick with one hand and try to hold her hat on with the other, and her feet, in their long shoes, looked so odd against the moonlit sky. Once she fell—and the broomstick came down quite slowly, like an umbrella blown inside out, with Miss Price clinging to the handle. Paul had watched her anxiously until she reached the ground. That time she landed safely.

  Partly, he did not tell because he wanted to be proud of Miss Price. He did not want the others to see her until she was really good at it—until, perhaps, she could do tricks on a broomstick and look confident instead of scared. Once when she had lifted both hands in the air at the same time, Paul nearly clapped. He knew that was hard to do even on a bicycle.

  "You see, Paul," Carey grumbled, "it was really very selfish; now Miss Price has hurt her ankle, she won't be flying again for ages. Charles and I may never have the chance of seeing her!"

  Later, as they were solemnly eating lunch in the high, dark dining room, Aunt Beatrice startled them by saying suddenly, "Poor Miss Price!" They all looked up, as if she had read their secret thoughts, and were relieved when she went on calmly, "It seems she has fallen off her bicycle and sprained her ankle. So painful, poor soul. I must send her down some peaches."

  Paul sat with his spoon halfway to his mouth, and his eyes moved round from Charles to Carey.

  Carey cleared her throat. "Aunt Beatrice," she said, "could we take the peaches to Miss Price?"

  "That's very thoughtful of you, Carey. I don't see why not, if you know where she lives."

  Paul seemed about to burst into speech but was silenced by a kick from Charles; aggrievedly, he swallowed his last mouthful of rice pudding.

  "Yes, Aunt Beatrice, we do know where she lives."

  It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when the children knocked at Miss Price's neat front door. The path on which they stood was gaily bordered with flowers, and through the half-open windows of the sitting room, Miss Price's dimity curtains fluttered in the breeze. The door was opened by Agnes, a village girl who served Miss Price for a few hours daily.

  As the children entered the little sitting room, for a moment they felt very shy. There lay Miss Price on the sofa, her bandaged foot raised up on pillows. She still looked pale, but now her hair was tidy and her white blouse spotlessly neat.

  "What lovely peaches! Thank you, my dears, and thank your aunt. Very kind of her, I'm sure. Sit down, sit down."

  The children sat down gingerly on the little spindly chairs.

  "Agnes is making us some tea. You must stay and keep me company. Carey, can you open that card table?"

  The children bustled round and helped to set the room for tea. A little table near Miss Price for the tea tray and a white cloth on the card table for the scones, the bread and butter, the quince jelly, and the ginger cake.

  They enjoyed their tea, and when it was over, they helped Agnes to clear away. Then Miss Price showed Charles and Carey how to play backgammon and lent Paul a large book full of pictures called Paradise Lost. Paul liked the book very much. He liked the smell of it and the gilt-edged pages.

  When they had finished the game of backgammon and it seemed that it must be nearly time to go home, Carey took her courage in both hands.

  "Miss Price," she said hesitatingly, "if it isn't rude to ask—are you a witch?"

  There was silence for a moment, and Carey could feel her heart beating. Paul looked up from his book.

  Very carefully, Miss Price closed the backgammon board and laid it on the little table beside the sofa. She took up her knitting and unfolded it.

  "Well," she said slowly, "I am and I'm not."

  Paul sat back on his heels. "You mean, you are sort of," he suggested.

  Miss Price threw him a glance. "I mean, Paul," she said quietly, "that I am studying to be a witch." She knitted a few stitches, pursing up her mouth.

  "Oh, Miss Price!" cried Carey warmly. "How terribly clever of you!"

  It was the best thing she could have said. Miss Price flushed, but she looked pleased.

  "How did you first think of it, Miss Price?"

  "Well, ever since I was a girl, I've had a bit of a gift for witchcraft, but somehow—what with piano lessons and looking after my mother—I never seemed to have the time to take it up seriously."

  Paul was staring at Miss Price, as if to drink in every detail of her appearance. "I don't think you're a wicked witch," he said at last.

  Miss Price dropped her eyes unhappily. "I know, Paul," she admitted in a low voice. "You're quite right. I started too late in life. That's the whole trouble."

  "Is being wicked the hardest part?" asked Carey.

  "It is for me," Miss Price told her rather sadly. "But there are people who have a natural gift for it."

  "Paul has," said Charles.

  Paul came nearer and sat down on a chair. He was still staring at Miss Price
, as if he longed to ask her something. After a minute, he found courage. "Could you just do a little bit of magic for us now?"

  "Oh, Paul," exclaimed Carey, "don't worry Miss Price—she can't do magic with a sprained ankle."

  "Yes, she could," protested Paul hotly. "She could do it lying down, couldn't you, Miss Price?"

  "Well," said Miss Price, "I am a little tired, Paul. But I'll just do a little quick one, and then you must all go home. There you are!"

  Carey and Charles looked around quickly, following the direction of Miss Price's eyes. Paul's chair was empty. Paul had gone—but where he had been sitting perched a little yellow frog.

  Before Carey or Charles had time to exclaim, Paul was back again, still staring expectantly at Miss Price.

  "Oh," cried Carey, with a gasp, "that was wonderful, wonderful! How did you do it?"

  She felt breathless and almost afraid. Magic—a spell—she had seen it with her own eyes.

  "I didn't see anything," complained Paul.

  Carey looked at him impatiently. "Oh, don't be silly, Paul. You turned into a frog. You must have felt it."

  Paul's lips trembled. "I didn't feel anything," he said in a squeaky little voice. But nobody heard him. Carey was staring at Miss Price with shining eyes.

  "Miss Price," she pointed out almost reproachfully, "you could have done that at the church concert, instead of singing."

  Miss Price laid down her knitting. A strange look crept into her face, and she looked hard at Carey as if she were seeing her for the first time. Nervously, Carey drew back in her chair.

  "Although you sing so nicely," she added quickly.

  But Miss Price did not seem to hear. There was a wild light in her eyes, and her lips moved quietly, as if she were reciting. "There must be some way," she was saying slowly. "There—must—be—some—way..."

  "Some way of what?" asked Charles after a moment's uncomfortable silence.

  Miss Price smiled, showing her long yellow teeth.

  "Of keeping your mouths shut," she rapped out.

  Carey was shocked. This was far from ladylike. "Oh, Miss Price!" she exclaimed unhappily.

  "Of keeping your mouths shut," repeated Miss Price slowly, smiling more unpleasantly than ever.