"Respect is meat and drink to a witch. Without respect, you ain’t got a thing. She doesn’t get much respect, our Miss Level."
That was true. People didn’t respect Miss Level. They liked her, in an unthinking sort of way, and that was it. Mistress Weatherwax was right, and Tiffany wished she wasn’t.
"Why did you and Miss Tick send me to her, then?" she said.
"Because she likes people," said the witch, striding ahead. "She cares about ‘em. Even the stupid, mean, drooling ones, the mothers with the runny babies and no sense, the feckless and the silly and the fools who treat her like some kind of servant.
Now that’s what I call magic — seein’ all that, dealin’ with all that, and still goin’ on. It’s sittin’ up all night with some poor old man who’s leavin’ the world, taking away such pain as you can, comfortin’ their terror, seein’ ‘em safely on their way … and then cleanin’ ‘em up, layin’ ‘em out, making ‘em neat for the funeral, and helpin’ the weeping widow strip the bed and wash the sheets — which is, let me tell you, no errand for the fainthearted — and stayin’ up the next night to watch over the coffin before the funeral, and then going home and sitting down for five minutes before some shouting angry man comes bangin’ on your door ‘cuz his wife’s havin’ difficulty givin’ birth to their first child and the midwife’s at her wits’ end and then getting up and fetching your bag and and going out again …
We all do that, in our own way, and she does it better’n me, if I was to put my hand on my heart. That is the root and heart and soul and center of witchcraft, that is. The soul and center!” Mistress Weatherwax smacked her fist into her hand, hammering out her words. “The … soul … and … center!”
Echoes came back from the trees in the sudden silence. Even the grasshoppers by the side of the track had stopped sizzling.
"And Mrs. Earwig," said Mistress Weatherwax, her voice sinking into a growl, "Mrs. Earwig tells her girls it’s about cosmic balances and stars and circles and colors and wands and … and toys, nothing but toys!” She sniffed. “Oh, I daresay they’re all very well as decoration, somethin’ nice to look at while you’re workin’, somethin’ for show, but the start and finish, the start and finish, is helpin’ people when life is on the edge. Even people you don’t like. Stars is easy. People is hard.”
She stopped talking. It was several seconds before birds began to sing again.
"Anyway, that’s what I think," she added in the tones of someone who suspects that she might have gone just a bit further than she meant to.