430 The Book of Indoor and Outdoor Games
custom of burning nuts. The girls who wished to know what fate had in store named one nut for herself and the others for the young men whom she favoured with her preference. This in the secrecy of her own mind. If a nut burst or jumped about, that lover would prove unfaithful; if it blazed, he had an ardent affection for her; while the one that burned evenly and slowly, staying near the nut representing the girl, would become her husband.
At still another table, the third witch was brewing tea and presaging fortunes by the grounds in the tea-cups.
Divination had now attained its height, and the most occult mysteries, hitherto shrouded from human vision, were unfolding themselves, when three black cats came into the room, creating a great sensation.
The hostess drew presages from their behaviour, saying:
"If a cat sits down beside you, a peaceful life is in store for you and all domestic joys. If by chance she rubs herself against you or jumps into your lap, all possible happiness will be yours; but if she refuses to make friends or runs from you, beware of evil fortune !"
Before the guests grew tired of questioning fate, the music struck up a merry tune, and all were ordered to dance a witches' dance—back to back—to be followed by a Virginia reel—after which supper was announced by the drawing aside of the portieres, and all trooped into the dining-room.
They were met at its threshold by one of the witches holding out a basket, from which all were to draw for partners. Chance was to decide everything, and every chance had its significance.
Upon the cards drawn from the basket were bats and brooms, black cats in every position, witches' caps,