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The Broomstick Train; Or, The Return Of The Witches
by [?]


LOOK out! Look out, boys! Clear the track!
The witches are here! They’ve all come back!
They hanged them high,–No use! No use!
What cares a witch for a hangman’s noose?
They buried them deep, but they wouldn’t lie still,
For cats and witches are hard to kill;
They swore they shouldn’t and wouldn’t die,–
Books said they did, but they lie! they lie!

A couple of hundred years, or so,
They had knocked about in the world below,
When an Essex Deacon dropped in to call,
And a homesick feeling seized them all;
For he came from a place they knew full well,
And many a tale he had to tell.
They longed to visit the haunts of men,
To see the old dwellings they knew again,
And ride on their broomsticks all around
Their wide domain of unhallowed ground.

In Essex county there’s many a roof
Well known to him of the cloven hoof;
The small square windows are full in view
Which the midnight hags went sailing through,
On their well-trained broomsticks mounted high,
Seen like shadows against the sky;
Crossing the track of owls and bats,
Hugging before them their coal-black cats.

Well did they know, those gray old wives,
The sights we see in our daily drives
Shimmer of lake and shine of sea,
Browne’s bare hill with its lonely tree,
(It was n’t then as we see it now,
With one scant scalp-lock to shade its brow;)
Dusky nooks in the Essex woods,
Dark, dim, Dante-like solitudes,
Where the tree-toad watches the sinuous snake
Glide through his forests of fern and brake;
Ipswich River; its old stone bridge;
Far off Andover’s Indian Ridge,
And many a scene where history tells
Some shadow of bygone terror dwells,–
Of “Norman’s Woe” with its tale of dread,
Of the Screeching Woman of Marblehead,
(The fearful story that turns men pale
Don’t bid me tell it,–my speech would fail.)

Who would not, will not, if he can,
Bathe in the breezes of fair Cape Ann,–
Rest in the bowers her bays enfold,
Loved by the sachems and squaws of old?
Home where the white magnolias bloom,
Sweet with the bayberry’s chaste perfume,
Hugged by the woods and kissed by the sea!
Where is the Eden like to thee?
For that “couple of hundred years, or so,”
There had been no peace in the world below;
The witches still grumbling, “It is n’t fair;
Come, give us a taste of the upper air!
We ‘ve had enough of your sulphur springs,
And the evil odor that round them clings;
We long for a drink that is cool and nice,–
Great buckets of water with Wenham ice;
We’ve served you well up-stairs, you know;
You ‘re a good old–fellow–come, let us go!”

I don’t feel sure of his being good,
But he happened to be in a pleasant mood,–
As fiends with their skins full sometimes are,–
(He’d been drinking with “roughs” at a Boston bar.)
So what does he do but up and shout
To a graybeard turnkey, “Let ’em out!”

To mind his orders was all he knew;
The gates swung open, and out they flew.
“Where are our broomsticks?” the beldams cried.
“Here are your broomsticks,” an imp replied.
“They ‘ve been in–the place you know–so long
They smell of brimstone uncommon strong;
But they’ve gained by being left alone,–
Just look, and you’ll see how tall they’ve grown.”
“And where is my cat?” a vixen squalled.
“Yes, where are our cats?” the witches bawled,
And began to call them all by name
As fast as they called the cats, they came
There was bob-tailed Tommy and long-tailed Tim,
And wall-eyed Jacky and green-eyed Jim,
And splay-foot Benny and slim-legged Beau,
And Skinny and Squally, and Jerry and Joe,
And many another that came at call,–
It would take too long to count them all.
All black,–one could hardly tell which was which,
But every cat knew his own old witch;
And she knew hers as hers knew her,–
Ah, didn’t they curl their tails and purr!