THE WORST WITCH
MISS CACKLE’S Academy for Witches stood at the top of a high mountain surrounded by a pine forest. It looked more like a prison than a school, with its gloomy grey walls and turrets. Sometimes you could see the pupils on their broomsticks flitting like bats above the playground wall, but usually the place was half hidden in mist, so that if you had glanced up at the mountain you would probably not have noticed the building was there at all.
Everything about the school was dark and shadowy. There were long, narrow corridors and winding staircases – and of course there were the girls themselves, dressed in black gymslips, black stockings, black hob-nailed boots, grey shirts and black-and-grey ties. Even their summer dresses were black-and-grey checked. The only touches of colour were the sashes round their gymslips – a different colour for each house – and the school badge, which was a black cat sitting on a yellow moon. For special occasions, such as prize-giving or Hallowe’en, there was another uniform consisting of a long robe worn with a tall, pointed hat, but as these were black too, it didn’t really make much of a change.
There were so many rules that you couldn’t do anything without being told off, and there seemed to be tests and exams every week.
Mildred Hubble was in her first year at the school. She was one of those people who always seem to be in trouble. She didn’t exactly mean to break rules and annoy the teachers, but things just seemed to happen whenever she was around. You could rely on Mildred to have her hat on back-to-front or her bootlaces trailing along the floor. She couldn’t walk from one end of a corridor to the other without someone yelling at her, and nearly every night she was writing lines or being kept in (not that there was anywhere to go if you were allowed out). Anyway, she had lots of friends, even if they did keep their
distance in the potion laboratory, and her best friend Maud stayed loyally by her through everything, however hair-raising. They made a funny pair, for Mildred was tall and thin with long plaits which she often chewed absent-mindedly (another thing she was told off about), while Maud was short and tubby, had round glasses and wore her hair in bunches.
On her first day at the academy each pupil was given a broomstick and taught to ride it, which takes quite a long time and isn’t nearly as easy as it looks. Halfway through the first term they were each presented with a black kitten which they trained to ride the broomsticks. The cats weren’t for any practical purpose except to keep tradition going; some schools present owls instead, but it’s just a matter of taste. Miss Cackle was a very traditional headmistress who did not believe in any new-fangled nonsense and trained her young witches to keep up all the customs that had been taught in her young day. At the end of the first year, each pupil received a copy of The Popular Book of Spells, a three-inch thick volume bound in black leather. This was not really to be used, as they already had paperback editions for the classroom, but like the cats it was another piece of tradition. Apart from yearly prize-giving, there were no more presentations until the fifth and final year when most pupils were awarded the Witches’ Higher Certificate. It did not seem likely that Mildred would ever get that far. After only two days at the school she crashed her broomstick into the yard wall, breaking the broomstick in half and bending her hat.