As soon as her feet touched the ground, she carefully lifted her excited little puppy out of her handlebar basket and put him down on the grass. She chucked the bike aside and followed the black, woolly bundle into the woods.
Together they ventured into a carpet of anemones, the little girl as elegant as a ballet dancer, the dog in a clumsy gallop. He trundled along over tree roots, barking enthusiastically while enticing her further in among the dense trees. Laughing and shouting she whirled around until the world turned into blurred streaks of colour. Dizzy, she threw herself face down among the flowers, burying her nose in the white petals oblivious of the yellow freckles that dotted her face.
Tired but happy she lay down in the white and green world. It would soon be time to return home, though. She called the dog which was peeing on straddling bow-legs; it hadn´t even learned to cock its leg yet. Automatically she patted her pocket to check if her key was still there.
She sped around in the clearing, in and out among naked beech trees, bent like an old orang-utan, brushing the anemones aside with her hands. Where had she been? But they had been everywhere! The sun was setting among the tree tops so now she would be in for trouble. The playful puppy ran between her legs and made her tumble down into a ditch. She sprained her ankle and landed head first in a stinking puddle. The dog fell on top of her, and in a fright she yelled at him to move.
In her struggle to get up she grabbed a tree root sticking out of the slope. It came loose, and she sat down in the mud again. Her heart throbbing, she realized she was holding a long, grey bone in her hand. It looked like … She flung it away, and caught sight of the witch who stood above the ditch glaring at her.
“Now, you thought that it was a real, human skeleton.” The witch cackled with pleasure behind her steaming tea mug. She had long, yellowish nails, but at a close range she didn´t look the least scary. She had probably just been digging in the garden.
“Of course I didn´t!” The girl took a curious look at the old-fashioned kitchen. She had never been inside a cottage remotely like this one before.
She spread a thick layer of blackberry jam on her fourth pancake and took a giant mouthful. Now there was no reason to admit how scared she had been out there. The witch was really kind, and it wasn´t her fault that her brother had disappeared around here last year. The witch had even promised to drive her home soon and tell daddy he mustn´t scold her for losing her bicycle key again.
“May I have another pancake?”
The witch didn´t seem to hear her. She was busy stoking the huge oven.