Excerpt from The Witches

by Roald Dahl

Read by Emma Rye 

I worked away, nailing the first plank on the roof. Then suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a woman standing immediately below me. She was looking up at me and smiling in the most peculiar way. When most people smile, their lips go out sideways. This woman’s lips went upwards and downwards, showing all her front teeth and gums. The gums were like raw meat.

It is always a shock to discover that you are being watched when you think you are alone.

And what was this strange woman doing in our garden anyway?

I noticed that she was wearing a small black hat and she had black gloves on her hands and the gloves came nearly up to her elbows.

Gloves! She was wearing gloves!

I froze all over.

“I have a present for you,” she said, still staring at me, still smiling, still showing her teeth and gums.

I didn’t answer.

“Come down out of that tree, little boy,” she said, “and I shall give you the most exciting present you’ve ever had.”

Her voice had a curious rasping quality. It made a sort of metallic sound, as though her throat was full of drawing-pins.

Without taking her eyes from my face, she very slowly put one of those gloved hands into her purse and drew out a small green snake. She held it up for me to see.

The snake began to coil itself around her fore-arm. It was brilliant green.

“If you come down here, I shall give him to you,” she said.

Oh Grandmamma, I thought, come and help me!

Then I panicked. I dropped the hammer and shot up that enormous tree like a monkey. I didn’t stop until I was as high as I could possibly go, and there I stayed, quivering with fear. I couldn’t see the woman now. There were layers and layers of leaves between her and me. I stayed up there for hours and I kept very still. It began to grow dark.