The old witches who hide in lonely caves in the Catskill Mountains do not disturb the people there like they used to.  Alex Stewart knows why, though he does not care to tell everybody.  Alex is a young herdsman and he is as sprightly and daring a lad as you will ever find in those mountains.  One cloudy summer night he was coming home across the mountains from a wedding feast and as he passed by a cave, he heard the sound of voices.

"What can anyone be doing here at this time of night?" said Alex to himself.

There was a tree growing by the cave, and Alex hid behind it and listened.  Suddenly a swarm of witches came out with their broomsticks in their hands and said:

"By yarrow and yew, and my broomstick too, Leap over to Lapland!"

And away they few on their broomsticks up into the clouds.  As the last old witch came out, Alex thought to himself, "I'll be in this and chance what falls." 

And he snatched the broomstick from the witch and set upon it and repeated.

"By yarrow and yew, and my broomstick too, Leap over to Lapland!"

In the twinkling of an eye he found himself rushing through the air with the witches, and one of the said, "However did ye getup here, Alex?"

But Alex knew something about witchcraft.  He knew that if he uttered a word he would fall off his broomstick and break his neck.  So he rode in silence among the witches.  They swiftly passed over Scotland, and crossed the sea and then over Norway.  Then they swept northward and came to Lapland, and flew through the gate of a castle.

"Hey!" cried the man at the gate as the witches swirled by him unseen. "Hey! There is a wild wind blowing in tonight."

The swarm of witches, Alex with them rushed down the corridors of the castle.  They rushed through the closed door of a cellar.  Alex closed his eyes as he thought he would be smashed to pieces.  But somehow he whiffled through the keyhole and there he was in the cellar with the witches.  Alex joined them as they had something to drink.

"Now ye ken, Alex," said the witches, "why we never trouble anybody in the Catskills when we need anything.  There is always stuff as guid, ay, and better to be gat frae foreigners."

Alex laughed so loudly that a servant opened the cellar door to see who was within.

"By yarrow and yew, And my broomstick too, Skip over to Scotland!" said the witches, and so said Alex, as he got on his broomstick.  And he remembered no more until he found himself waking up outside the cave in the Catskills, just as the dawn was breaking.  He looked into the cave.  There was nobody there. At least, he couldn't see anyone! 

 

 

 

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