Willow Witches Brook

Willow Witches Brook

Written by Mollie Kaye
with decorations by Margaret Tempest

Published in 1944 by Collins, London
Abridged: 4 June, 2001

This is the tale about a young ‘chick’ who runs away from home to become a pirate.  Fortunately he sees the error of his way and eventually saves the day.  A brief summary of the story follows:

Having found a perfect place to hide a nest, Mrs Clutterchuck made a soft hollow among the tall grasses and everyday for seven days laid a brown speckly egg in it.  But something must have gone wrong with Mrs Clutterchuck’s arithmetic because one day, when she came to sit on these eggs, there were eight of them!  Seven were brown and speckly but the eighth was a big pale green-blue egg that had certainly not been there the day before.  “I suppose I must have laid it in an Absent Minded Moment”, thought Mrs Clutterchuck as she sat back down on her nest.  And there she sat until one day there came a tap-tap-tapping from inside the eggs. 

One by one the egg-shells cracked and out came eight little balls of down.  But although the seven of them were brown and speckly, the eighth was the colour of the buttercups in the meadow!  Mrs Clutterchuck was very proud of her family and gave each of them a name of their own.  She called the last one Quackety because whilst all her other children said “Cheep, Cheep”, Quackety said “Quack, Quack.”

As they grew older the little family would play hide-and-seek under the dock leaves and chase each other among the daisies but Quackety could only waddle along, stumbling clumsily among the buttercups.  The only place Quackety felt really happy was at the edge of the Brook.  He thought that the green shiny water was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.  He liked the feel of wet squishy mud by the water’s edge and the smell of the damp reeds.  Mrs Clutterchuck could not understand it and she smacked Quackety whenever he got his feet wet as she was frightened that he might drown. 

One day, Quackety decided to run away to sea and become a pirate but when he got to the water’s edge, he remembered his mother’s warning about chicks who fell into the water getting drowned and so collected some dry rushes and tied them together with grass stems until he had made quite a big raft for himself.  It floated beautifully and Quackety felt very proud of himself as he stepped on board and sailed merrily down the stream.  “Now for some piratical adventures” said Quackety.

Now it just so happened that Mr Jeremy Tweezle, the water-rat, had brought out all his clothes to give them an airing when Quackety spied Mr Tweezle’s cocked hat hanging on a twig.  “Just the thing for a pirate” he cried and snatched it away as he sailed past, not in the least bit sorry for his Disgraceful behaviour. 

Quackety the Pirate continued his reign of terror all through the day and thought how simple it was to be a pirate.  But by tea-time, Quackety was getting very hungry and there was nothing left to eat.  The sun was going down and soon it would be dark.  He began to wish he was back again in the cosy nest at the foot of the Oldest Willow Tree.  “Tomorrow” he said “I will stop being a pirate and go home.”

Early next morning a crowd of people had collected at the house of Oswald Toots, the policeman.  They had all come to complain about Quackety the Pirate.  One after another they told Mr Toots about the Extreme Boldness of Quackety the Pirate and Mr Toots wrote it all down in his Policeman’s notebook.  “We must find this dangerous person!”  he said when they had all finished.  And that is why, when Quackety started back up the Brook next morning he was taken by surprise and arrested.  “Quackety” said Oswald Toots “I arrest you in the name of the law.”  And he put a chain round poor Quackety’s neck and led him away to prison.

As soon as she heard the news of Quackety’s capture, Mrs Cluttercluck came hurrying up to beg Mr Toots to let him off but the others were very firm.  And while they all began to shout and argue, it began to rain.  “Let us all get inside Hollow Willow until it stops raining.” said Mrs Brownwing  But it did not stop raining until presently Willow Witches Brook began to rise alarmingly.  “Oh dear! Oh dear!” clucked Mrs Cluttercluck.  “Whatever shall we do?”

“We must send for help” said Professor Flutter Whuffle.  But no one wanted to chance leaving the shelter of Hollow Willow.  “Hi!” said Quackety “Let me out and I will go.  I LIKE the wet and I can swim.”

Reluctantly, Professor Fluster Whuffle released Quackety and told him to find Master Pumeloe, the black pig from Little Trodger’s Farm.  “Pray tell him to hurry as our case is urgent.”  Eventually Master Pumeloe was seen punting up the brook towards Hollow Willow.  The water was right up round the foot of the tree and everyone was very relieved to see him.  Master Pumeloe took them all on board and poled them across to Potter Pinner Meadow and safety.

As for Quackety, he was forgiven all his Badness because of the way he fetched help.  Mrs Cluttercluck and the seven little chicks have gone back to live in the farmyard, but Quackety preferred to stay near Willow Witches Brook.  He has a little house of his own among the rushes and spends most of his time swimming. You see Quackety is really… a duck.