The chief witch took one mouthful of the soup,
and spat it out.
"This is disgusting," she said, not bothering
to pull a face because she was quite ugly enough
anyway. "What's it supposed to be, Dorothea?"
Dorothea looked up the table, past all the
other witches, to where the chief witch was sitting.
"It's child broth, Hildegard," she replied,
"Child broth? Child broth? What kind of 'child'
did you use?"
"Er, I used a naughty one, Hildegard, of
course," replied Dorothea, not altogether convincingly.
"A naughty one. You used a naughty one..."
Hildegard scowled, horribly, then shouted. "No way was
this a naughty one! I know what naughty children taste
like, and this," she waved her hand at the bowl, which
immediately started to smoulder, "this was a good one!
You only have to smell it, it's vile!"
The other witches around the table began to
"Well hey," said Dorothea, spiritedly. "None of
this is my fault you know. There are no naughty
children any more! They stay at home all evening doing
homework and watching videos and playing computer
games. Can I help it if they're not outside throwing
bricks at street-lamps and tormenting small animals?
You can't expect me to cook healthy, wholesome food
without the right ingredients."
"Well that's where you're wrong, Dorothea,"
snarled Hildegard. "We can blame you all we want,
because we're witches and we're like that. Instead of
simply moaning about not having any children to cook,
you ought to do something about it!"
"I agree," said the witch sitting next to
Hildegard. "It's ages since I had a decent hand
sandwich - "
" - and as for scrambled leg!" piped up
"OK, OK, you've made your point," snapped
Dorothea. "So what do you want me to 'do about it'?"
"If you can't find any children who are already
bad, go out and make them bad," ordered Hildegard. "I
can't stand much more of eating grown-ups, they're so
tough I almost wish I still had teeth."
* * *
* * *
"Now, children, you will be good with the new
baby-sitter, won't you?" asked Emma and Jack's mother.
"Of course, Mummy," answered Emma, "but I do
wish Mrs Thompson could have come."
"Mrs Thompson couldn't come today, poppet,"
said her mother, "because for some reason Mr Thompson
thinks he is a frog. We're very lucky that Mrs Darque
had a card in the newsagent's or we wouldn't have had
anybody, and you know what that would have meant."
"Yes," shouted Jack, who, being younger than
his sister, hadn't quite got the hang of the volume
control on his voice yet. "You couldn't go to visit
Granny in hospital."
"That's right, Jack," smiled his mother. "Now
shall we listen out for Mrs Darque's car? She should be
here any - "
The doorbell rang.
"Oh! What good timing, that must be her now.
I'm surprised we didn't hear her arrive, I expect she
walked. Well, I'd better be on my way, or Granny will
think I couldn't find the hospital. Remember, you will
be good for Mrs Darque, won't you?"
"Yes, Mummy," answered the children together,
as their mother kissed them goodbye.
* * *
"So," said Mrs Darque, once they were alone.
"What are your names?"
"I'm Emma and he's Jack," replied Emma.
"You can call me Dorothea," smiled Mrs Darque,
displaying an ugly set of toothless gums, "and have I
got fantastic news for you! You've been so good
recently that I only disguised myself as a baby-sitter,
so that I could visit you in secret. I am, in fact,
your Fairy Godmother."
"You look more like a witch to me," frowned
"Listen, shorty," growled Dorothea, "I didn't
say I was your Fairy Godmother, I said I was hers, OK?
Just shut, er," she checked herself, "just shut the
door and sit down with me and we'll decide what to do."
Jack obeyed, but the look he gave Dorothea when
she patted his head with her bony hand was not one of
somebody completely persuaded...
"Now, children, because you've been so good,
I'll let you be naughty this evening as a treat. Do
anything you like, just go ahead, it won't matter,
because I'll just magic it better later for you."
"Are you sure?" asked Emma. "That doesn't sound
right to me."
"How would you know, you little - er, little
girl? I'm the one who's been to Fairy Godmother school,
and this is how it works, OK?"
"OK, I suppose."
Dorothea straightened her rat-wool cardigan.
"That's better. Now, tonight you can forget all about
doing your homework."
"That's because I've already done it," said
"Oh. Well how about if we play with your
computer, then? We can surf the Net awhile, maybe crash
someone else's system? And I know some really, er, cool
"Can you magic us a free telephone?" asked
Jack, suddenly interested.
"Of course," cackled Dorothea. "Then, I have
the address of this great site where they teach you how
to make bombs and - "
"Maybe you should magic us a computer first?"
Dorothea sighed. "You don't have a computer."
"We don't have a computer, that's right. Not
everyone does, you know."
"Well, let's forget that then. How about - "
"She can't magic a computer," giggled Jack.
"Some Fairy Godmother she is!"
Dorothea hissed at him. "Well, I could do it,"
she said, finally, "but I'd be copying its programs
illegally, and that would never do for a good Fairy
Godmother, like me, now would it? How about if..." she
paused. "You do have a video player, don't you?"
"Yes," said Emma, "why?"
"I left these great videos on the seat of my
broom - "
"My broom-broom, you know, my car. Let me go
and get them."
"Do you have Barbie Saves the Dolphins?" asked
"Er, not that precise one," answered Dorothea.
"I have The Axemen of Death Avenge the Chainsaw
Warriors, that might be similar."
"Oh, I don't think so," said Emma. "It sounds
like lots of nasty things happen in it."
"Well lots of nasty things do happen in it, you
idi - er, iddy-biddy girl. That's why it's so much fun
"I wouldn't think it was fun," said Jack. "Do
you have any cartoons instead?"
Things were not going the way Dorothea had
"Listen, let's just go straight to the wish,
shall we? I'm your," she pointed a long, twig-like
finger at Emma, "your Fairy Godmother, and you're due a
wish. What do you want?"
"A wish?" clapped Emma.
"Yes, a wish. How about a million pounds? Or
one of your teachers to lose all her hair? Or that big
dog across the road to meet with a cruel accident?"
"I wish," said Emma, "for my Granny to get
The fearful stench of goodness was so great
that Dorothea had to grab hold of her nose to stop from
"See, she is a witch," said Jack. "She has a
crooked nose just like one."
"But surely witches are more wicked than her?"
"And she has whiskers on her chin, too. Maybe,"
he peered at her closely, "maybe she's really a man?"
"Hey, I'm 300 years old, what do you expect?"
complained Dorothea. "We can't keep our looks forever,
"So do I get my wish or not?" asked Emma.
"Your wish. The little girl wants to know if
she gets her wish." Dorothea was finally losing her
temper. "NO YOU DO NOT GET YOUR WISH! YOU GET THE
COOKING POT!" With that, and a wave of the magic wand
she had secretly hidden inside her shoe, they
disappeared in a puff of thunder (or it may have been a
clap of smoke).
Emma and Jack found themselves standing on a
table, surrounded by perhaps twenty old hags who looked
just like Dorothea only less lovable.
"These," said the chief witch, slowly, "smell
suspiciously like good children to me."
"Listen, Hildegard," rasped Dorothea, "I've had
it with these two drips, and their namby-pamby Barbie
Saves the Dolphins attitude. You're supposed to be the
one in charge, you make them do something naughty!"
"Very well," said Hildegard, standing up as
straight as she felt small children would think a witch
could stand up. "You!" she pointed at Emma. "Do you
think it's naughty to bite old ladies?"
"Yes," said Emma, "I do."
"Now that's what I wanted to hear," she crowed.
"Well I'm 673 years old, and I'm going to stick my
horrible bony finger into your mouth and not take it
out until you bite it."
That said, Hildegard clambered onto the table
and tottered toward the two children.
"Do the laugh," said Jack. "You know, that 'ee,
hicker-hicker-hicker' laugh that witches do."
"Ee, hicker-hicker-hicker," laughed Hildegard.
"I think we're in trouble, Emma," said Jack,
suddenly frightened. "She can do the laugh."
"You're in trouble, sonny, yes," agreed
Hildegard, "but don't think you can escape because I've
cast a spell on you and your sister and you're stuck
right where you are." She put her finger into Emma's
"I on't ite ou," said Emma, defiantly.
"If you don't, you'll be here for years and
years," said Hildegard. "Only if I hurt my finger will
the spell that holds you here be broken, and the last
time I did that by accident was 1856. Of course, if you
do bite me, then that will make you naughty, and then
we get to eat you! Ee, hicker-hicker-hicker!"
Emma played for time. "It on't ake ack aughty,"
"Look, girly, I don't care about your little
squirt brother. He'll go nuts when he sees you heading
for the cauldron, and he's bound to try and hit someone
to stop us. Now are you going to bite my finger or
Suddenly, Emma knew what she must do. She
opened her mouth so wide that Hildegard could see her
tonsils, then she brought down her teeth as hard as she
Hildegard shrieked in pain, and tried to pull
back her hand, but Emma had bitten really deeply and
was tugging away at it like she would a really tough
piece of nougat. Jack was shocked, and started to cry,
but stopped in surprise when he noticed that one by one
the witches were clutching at their noses and fainting
Too late, Hildegard realised what was going on.
"You bit me to save your brother!" she howled.
"That's right, you nasty person," replied Emma,
freeing Hildegard's hand as she spoke. "It's not what
you do, but why you do it that makes you good or bad."
She hugged Jack tightly as he ran into her arms.
"I can still have you arrested for hurting me,"
said Hildegard, just before she, too, was overcome by
the tremendous smell of goodness that Emma's brave deed
"No you can't," smiled Emma. "You asked for
"So, children, have you had a - oh! Where's Mrs
"She had to go early, Mummy," answered Emma.
"She had some children round for dinner."
"Did she leave that old-fashioned broomstick
outside the door?" asked her mother. "And where's
"It's past Jack's bed-time, so I put him to
bed," said Emma.
"It's past yours, too," chided her mother, "but
I won't be cross, because you've been such a good girl
to cope without a baby-sitter."
"How's Granny?" asked Emma.
"Well, now that's just the strangest thing,"
said her mother, taking off her coat. "I'd only just
arrived at the hospital when she made a complete
recovery. The doctors said they'd never seen anything
like it, it was quite uncanny. They're keeping her in
overnight in case she gets worse again, but if not she
should be out tomorrow morning."
"She won't get worse again," said Emma,
smiling. "It was all done by magic."
"Magic?" repeated her mother, giving her that
sometimes-your-stories-are-just-a-little-too-unbelievable look that all mothers give their children
at least three times every day. "I suppose your Fairy
Godmother paid you a visit, did she?"
"Well, not exactly..." replied Emma,