The Whispering Knights
Table of Contents
The Whispering Knights ..................................................................................................................................1
The Whispering Knights
by Penelope Lively retold by Clare West
1 The witch's brew
The frogs' legs weren't as bad as the children had expected. They slidquickly out of the tin and into the pan, which Susie was holding over the fire. Although they were greyish−brown and very unpleasant, Martha was relieved to see that they didn't look like real legs. She had been feeling sorry for the poor frogs. But William was looking crossly into the pan. `We paid a lot for them!' he said. `I hope they're worth it.' The children had made a small fire just insidethe door of the barn. They often came to play here, as it was only just outside the village of Steeple Hampden, where they lived. Nobody else seemed to use the big, empty building. The barn's old walls were made of rough stone, which appeared to change colour when the sunlight touched it, and the barn roof had green and gold plants climbing all over it. On the other side of the building was a bighouse, standing alone in the middle of the fields. Inside the barn, the only light came through the large double doors and one or two holes in the roof. So it was difficult to see into all the corners, which always looked dark and mysterious. It was William who had first suggested making a witch's brew, some weeks before. He had got the idea from his father, who was a teacher at the village school.`It's what witches used to do!' he had told Susie and Martha excitedly. `You know, put all kinds of things into a pan, and heat it over a fire. We can collect all the things, and make a fire in the barn. It'll be fun! Just a small fire, of course. We won't be able to play there any more if we cause any damage. Look, I've written it all down. My dad told me what we need. It's in an old book he'sgot. Look here's the list!'
With eye of fish, and toe of frog, Wool of sheep, and hair of dog, Oil of rose, and skin of snake, And wing of bird, the brew make.
`How can we find all these things?' Susie had asked. Her eyes were bright with interest. `It's easy!' said William delightedly. `We can buy a bottle of rose oil, a tin of those little fish with their heads on for the eye of fish and . ..' `Toe of frog! How do we manage that?' asked Susie. `No problem,' replied William. `You can get frogs' legs in tins. People eat them.' The girls stared at him in horror. `Honestly, it's true. We can order a tin from a shop in London. And we can find a dead bird in the woods. And a snake skin, if we look carefully. And . . .' But Martha was feeling very worried. `Do you think this is a goodidea?' she asked. `I mean, it sounds like a spell to me. Is it really safe?' The Whispering Knights 1
The Whispering Knights `It's not a spell,' William answered, `it's like science. We're going to see what happens. It'll be very interesting!' `But −' Martha went on unhappily, `when you listen to all the stories in the village about the witch who used to live in the barn, couldn't it be − er −dangerous?' `You don't really believe all that rubbish, do you?' said William. `Witches and all that? That was just superstition − what people in the past used to believe. You see, they wanted someone to blame when they were ill or their cows died or something. So they said there were witches who put spells on things. But there aren't any! That's what my dad says, and he knows.' Martha was still verydoubtful, but she had to agree to the plan, because the three of them always did things together. In the next couple of weeks they busily collected what they needed for the witch's brew, as well as some firewood. Now here they were, on a Tuesday morning in August, all staring at a pan full of strange things on a very small fire. Susie, who was doing the cooking, had already said the words of...