His great-aunt met him at the door as he came home. She was so angry that her cap had slid over one ear, her eyes were like tiny hot coals and her very apron-strings curled with wrath. She boxed Birdling’s ears, smack, smack, smack!—until they were as pink as sea-shells.
“You, you, you,” she cried, “You shall have no supper, sir, but a very good whipping! Go up on the hill behind the house and cut a switch, a strong one, a long one, for a long strong whipping, sir!”
Obediently Birdling went up to the hill where the witch-hazel bushes held out their long, strong boughs to be cut for switches. But somehow he could not find just the switch he wanted; one was not long enough and another was too long, or one would not be strong enough and the next too strong. He looked them all over very carefully.
The witch-hazel bushes were in blossom, there were fuzzy little yellow stars on their boughs; Birdling saw a bumble-bee (who should have been in bed an hour ago) darting from bush to bush and tasting the little flowers. Then the boy remembered that he was to have no supper tonight, and as he felt dreadfully hungry, he touched one of the yellow blossoms and licked his finger that was covered with fine golden pollen, just to see what it tasted like.