Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names
They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree.
"Now, my dears," said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, "you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor."
"Now run along, and don't get into mischief. I am going out."
Then old Mrs. Rabbit took a basket and her umbrella, and went through the wood to the baker's. She bought a loaf of brown bread and five currant buns.
Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries;
But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate!
First he ate some lettuces and some French beans; and then he ate some radishes;
And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley.
But round the end of a cucumber frame, whom should he meet but Mr. McGregor!
Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees planting out young cabbages, but he jumped up and ran after Peter, waving a rake and calling out, "Stop thief."
Peter was most dreadfully frightened; he rushed all over the garden, for he had forgotten the way back to the gate.
He lost one of his shoes among the cabbages, and the other shoe amongst the potatoes.
After losing them, he ran on four legs and went faster, so that I think he might have got away altogether if he had not unfortunately run into a gooseberry net, and got caught by the large buttons on his jacket. It was a blue jacket with brass buttons, quite new.
Peter gave himself up for lost, and shed big tears; but his sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement, and implored him to exert himself.
Mr. McGregor came up with a sieve, which he intended to pop upon the top of Peter; but Peter wriggled out just in time, leaving his jacket behind him.
And rushed into the tool shed, and jumped into a can. It would have been a beautiful thing to hide in, if it had not had so much water in it.
Mr. McGregor was quite sure that Peter was somewhere in the toolshed, perhaps hidden underneath a flower- pot. He began to turn them over carefully, looking under each.
Presently Peter sneezed— "Kertyschoo!" Mr. McGregor was after him in no time,
And tried to put his foot upon Peter, who jumped out of a window, upsetting three plants. The window was too small for Mr. McGregor, and he was tired of running after Peter. He went back to his work.
Peter sat down to rest; he was out of breath and trembling with fright, and he had not the least idea which way to go. Also he was very damp with sitting in that can.
After a time he began to wander about, going lippity—lippity—not very fast, and looking all around.
He found a door in a wall; but it was locked, and there was no room for a fat little rabbit to squeeze underneath.
An old mouse was running in and out over the stone doorstep, carrying peas and beans to her family in the wood. Peter asked her the way to the gate, but she had such a large pea in her mouth that she could not answer. She only shook her head at him. Peter began to cry.
Then he tried to find his way straight across the garden, but he became more and more puzzled. Presently, he came to a pond where Mr. McGregor filled his water-cans. A white cat was staring at some goldfish; she sat very, very still, but now and then the tip of her tail twitched as if it were alive. Peter thought it best to go away without speaking to her; he has heard about cats from his cousin, little Benjamin Bunny.
He went back towards the tool shed, but suddenly, quite close to him, he heard the noise of a hoe— scr-r-ritch, scratch, scratch, scritch. Peter scuttered underneath the bushes. But presently, as nothing happened, he came out, and climbed upon a wheelbarrow, and peeped over. The first thing he saw was Mr. McGregor hoeing onions. His back was turned towards Peter, and beyond him was the gate!
Peter got down very quietly off the wheelbarrow, and started running as fast as he could go, along a straight walk behind some black-currant bushes.
Mr. McGregor caught sight of him at the corner, but Peter did not care. He slipped underneath the gate, and was safe at last in the wood outside the garden.
Mr. McGregor hung up the little jacket and the shoes for a scare-crow to frighten the blackbirds.
Peter never stopped running or looked behind him till he got home to the big fir-tree.
He was so tired that he flopped down upon the nice soft sand on the floor of the rabbit-hole, and shut his eyes. His mother was busy cooking; she wondered what he had done with his clothes. It was the second little jacket and pair of shoes that Peter had lost in a fortnight!
I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening.
His mother put him to bed, and made some camomile tea; and she gave a dose of it to Peter!
"One table-spoonful to be taken at bed-time."
But Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail had bread and milk and
blackberries for supper.
"I'll be at charges for a looking-glass; And entertain a score or two of tailors." [Richard III]
My Dear Freda:
Because you are fond of fairytales, and have been ill, I have made you a story all for yourself—a new one that nobody has read before.
And the queerest thing about it is—that I heard it in
Gloucestershire, and that it is true—at least about the tailor, the
waistcoat, and the
"No more twist!" Christmas
In the time of swords and peri wigs and full-skirted coats with flowered lappets—when gentlemen wore ruffles, and gold-laced waistcoats of paduasoy and taffeta—there lived a tailor in Gloucester.
He sat in the window of a little shop in Westgate Street, cross-legged on a table from morning till dark.
All day long while the light lasted he sewed and snippetted, piecing out his satin, and pompadour, and lutestring; stuffs had strange names, and were very expensive in the days of the Tailor of Gloucester.
But although he sewed fine silk for his neighbours, he himself was very, very poor. He cut his coats without waste; according to his embroidered cloth, they were very small ends and snippets that lay about upon the table—"Too narrow breadths for nought—except waistcoats for mice," said the tailor.
One bitter cold day near Christmastime the tailor began to make a coat (a coat of cherry- coloured corded silk embroidered with pansies and roses) and a cream- coloured satin waistcoat for the Mayor of Gloucester.
The tailor worked and worked, and he talked to himself: "No breadth at all, and cut on the cross; it is no breadth at all; tippets for mice and ribbons for mobs! for mice!" said the Tailor of Gloucester.
When the snow-flakes came down against the small leaded window- panes and shut out the light, the tailor had done his day's work; all the silk and satin lay cut out upon the table.
There were twelve pieces for the coat and four pieces for the waistcoat; and there were pocket-flaps and cuffs and buttons, all in order. For the lining of the coat there was fine yellow taffeta, and for the button- holes of the waistcoat there was cherry-coloured twist. And everything was ready to sew together in the morning, all measured and sufficient—except that there was wanting just one single skein of cherry-coloured twisted silk.
The tailor came out of his shop at dark. No one lived there at nights but little brown mice, and THEY ran in and out without any keys!
For behind the wooden wainscots of all the old houses in Gloucester, there are little mouse staircases and secret trap-doors; and the mice run from house to house through those long, narrow passages.
But the tailor came out of his shop and shuffled home through the snow. And although it was not a big house, the tailor was so poor he only rented the kitchen.
He lived alone with his cat; it was called Simpkin.
"Miaw?" said the cat when the tailor opened the door, "miaw?"
The tailor replied: "Simpkin, we shall make our fortune, but I am worn to a ravelling. Take this groat (which is our last fourpence), and, Simpkin, take a china pipkin, but a penn'orth of bread, a penn'orth of milk, and a penn'orth of sausages. And oh, Simpkin, with the last penny of our fourpence but me one penn'orth of cherry-coloured silk. But do not lose the last penny of the fourpence, Simpkin, or I am undone and worn to a thread-paper, for I have NO MORE TWIST."
Then Simpkin again said "Miaw!" and took the groat and the pipkin, and went out into the dark.
The tailor was very tired and beginning to be ill. He sat down by the hearth and talked to himself about that wonderful coat.
"I shall make my fortune—to be cut bias—the Mayor of Gloucester is to be married on Christmas Day in the morning, and he hath ordered a coat and an embroidered waistcoat—"
Then the tailor started; for suddenly, interrupting him, from the dresser at the other side of the kitchen came a number of little noises—
Tip tap, tip tap, tip tap tip!
"Now what can that be?" said the Tailor of Gloucester, jumping up from his chair. The tailor crossed the kitchen, and stood quite still beside the dresser, listening, and peering through his spectacles.
"This is very peculiar," said the Tailor of Gloucester, and he lifted up the tea-cup which was upside down.
Out stepped a little live lady mouse, and made a courtesy to the tailor! Then she hopped away down off the dresser, and under the wainscot.
The tailor sat down again by the fire, warming his poor cold hands. But all at once, from the dresser, there came other little noises—
Tip tap, tip tap, tip tap tip!
"This is passing extraordinary!" said the Tailor of Gloucester, and turned over another tea-cup, which was upside down.
Out stepped a little gentleman mouse, and made a bow to the tailor!
And out from under tea-cups and from under bowls and basins, stepped other and more little mice, who hopped away down off the dresser and under the wainscot.
The tailor sat down, close over the fire, lamenting: "One-and-twenty buttonholes of cherry-coloured silk! To be finished by noon of Saturday: and this is Tuesday evening. Was it right to let loose those mice, undoubtedly the property of Simpkin? Alack, I am undone, for I have no more twist!"
The little mice came out again and listened to the tailor; they took notice of the pattern of that wonderful coat. They whispered to one another about the taffeta lining and about little mouse tippets.
And then suddenly they all ran away together down the passage behind the wainscot, squeaking and calling to one another as they ran from house to house.
Not one mouse was left in the tailor's kitchen when Simpkin came back. He set down the pipkin of milk upon the dresser, and looked suspiciously at the tea-cups. He wanted his supper of little fat mouse!
"Simpkin," said the tailor, "where is my TWIST?"
But Simpkin hid a little parcel privately in the tea-pot, and spit and growled at the tailor; and if Simpkin had been able to talk, he would have asked: "Where is my MOUSE?"
"Alack, I am undone!" said the Tailor of Gloucester, and went sadly to bed.
All that night long Simpkin hunted and searched through the kitchen, peeping into cupboards and under the wainscot, and into the tea-pot where he had hidden that twist; but still he found never a mouse!
The poor old tailor was very ill with a fever, tossing and turning in his four-post bed; and still in his dreams he mumbled: "No more twist! no more twist!"
What should become of the cherry- coloured coat? Who should come to sew it, when the window was barred, and the door was fast locked?
Out-of-doors the market folks went trudging through the snow to buy their geese and turkeys, and to bake their Christmas pies; but there would be no dinner for Simpkin and the poor old tailor of Gloucester.
The tailor lay ill for three days and nights; and then it was Christmas Eve, and very late at night. And still Simpkin wanted his mice, and mewed as he stood beside the four-post bed.
But it is in the old story that all the beasts can talk in the night between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the morning (though there are very few folk that can hear them, or know what it is that they say).
When the Cathedral clock struck twelve there was an answer—like an echo of the chimes—and Simpkin heard it, and came out of the tailor's door, and wandered about in the snow.
From all the roofs and gables and old wooden houses in Gloucester came a thousand merry voices singing the old Christmas rhymes—all the old songs that ever I heard of, and some that I don't know, like Whittington's bells.
Under the wooden eaves the starlings and sparrows sang of Christmas pies; the jackdaws woke up in the Cathedral tower; and although it was the middle of the night the throstles and robins sang; and air was quite full of little twittering tunes.
But it was all rather provoking to poor hungry Simpkin.
From the tailor's ship in Westgate came a glow of light; and when Simpkin crept up to peep in at the window it was full of candles. There was a snippeting of scissors, and snappeting of thread; and little mouse voices sang loudly and gaily:
Went to catch a snail,
The best man amongst them
Durst not touch her tail;
She put out her horns
Like a little kyloe cow.
Run, tailors, run!
Or she'll have you all e'en now!"
Then without a pause the little mouse voices went on again:
"Sieve my lady's oatmeal,
Grind my lady's flour,
Put it in a chestnut,
Let it stand an hour—"
"Mew! Mew!" interrupted Simpkin, and he scratched at the door. But the key was under the tailor's pillow; he could not get in.
The little mice only laughed, and tried another tune—
"Three little mice sat down to spin,
Pussy passed by and she peeped in.
What are you at, my fine little men?
Making coats for gentlemen.
Shall I come in and cut off yours threads?
Oh, no, Miss Pussy,
You'd bite off our heads!"
"Mew! scratch! scratch!" scuffled Simpkin on the window-sill; while the little mice inside sprang to their feet, and all began to shout all at once in little twittering voices: "No more twist! No more twist!" And they barred up the window-shutters and shut out Simpkin.
Simpkin came away from the shop and went home considering in his mind. He found the poor old tailor without fever, sleeping peacefully.
Then Simpkin went on tip-toe and took a little parcel of silk out of the tea-pot; and looked at it in the moonlight; and he felt quite ashamed of his badness compared with those good little mice!
When the tailor awoke in the morning, the first thing which he saw, upon the patchwork quilt, was a skein of cherry-coloured twisted silk, and beside his bed stood the repentant Simpkin!
The sun was shining on the snow when the tailor got up and dressed, and came out into the street with Simpkin running before him.
"Alack," said the tailor, "I have my twist; but no more strength—nor time—than will serve to make me one single buttonhole; for this is Christmas Day in the Morning! The Mayor of Gloucester shall be married by noon—and where is his cherry- coloured coat?"
He unlocked the door of the little shop in Westgate Street, and Simpkin ran in, like a cat that expects something.
But there was no one there! Not even one little brown mouse!
But upon the table—oh joy! the tailor gave a shout—there, where he had left plain cuttings of silk—there lay the most beautiful coat and embroidered satin waistcoat that ever were worn by a Mayor of Gloucester!
Everything was finished except just one single cherry-coloured buttonhole, and where that buttonhole was wanting there was pinned a scrap of paper with these words—in little teeny weeny writing—
NO MORE TWIST.
And from then began the luck of the Tailor of Gloucester; he grew quite stout, and he grew quite rich.
He made the most wonderful waistcoats for all the rich merchants of Gloucester, and for all the fine gentlemen of the country round.
Never were seen such ruffles, or such embroidered cuffs and lappets! But his buttonholes were the greatest triumph of it all.
The stitches of those buttonholes were so neat—SO neat—I wonder how they could be stitched by an old man in spectacles, with crooked old fingers, and a tailor's thimble.
The stitches of those buttonholes were so small—SO small—they
looked as if they had been made by little mice!
[A Story for Norah]
This is a Tale about a tail—a tail that belonged to a little red squirrel, and his name was Nutkin.
He had a brother called Twinkleberry, and a great many cousins: they lived in a wood at the edge of a lake.
In the middle of the lake there is an island covered with trees and nut bushes; and amongst those trees stands a hollow oak-tree, which is the house of an owl who is called Old Brown.
One autumn when the nuts were ripe, and the leaves on the hazel bushes were golden and green— Nutkin and Twinkleberry and all the other little squirrels came out of the wood, and down to the edge of the lake.
They made little rafts out of twigs, and they paddled away over the water to Owl Island to gather nuts.
Each squirrel had a little sack and a large oar, and spread out his tail for a sail.
They also took with them an offering of three fat mice as a present for Old Brown, and put them down upon his door-step.
Then Twinkleberry and the other little squirrels each made a low bow, and said politely—
"Old Mr. Brown, will you favour us with permission to gather nuts upon your island?"
But Nutkin was excessively impertinent in his manners. He bobbed up and down like a little red CHERRY, singing—
"Riddle me, riddle me, rot-tot-tote!
A little wee man, in a red red coat!
A staff in his hand, and a stone in his throat;
If you'll tell me this riddle, I'll give you a groat."
Now this riddle is as old as the hills; Mr. Brown paid no attention whatever to Nutkin.
He shut his eyes obstinately and went to sleep.
The squirrels filled their little sacks with nuts, and sailed away home in the evening.
But next morning they all came back again to Owl Island; and Twinkleberry and the others brought a fine fat mole, and laid it on the stone in front of Old Brown's doorway, and said—
"Mr. Brown, will you favour us with your gracious permission to gather some more nuts?"
But Nutkin, who had no respect, began to dance up and down, tickling old Mr. Brown with a NETTLE and singing—
"Old Mr. B! Riddle-me-ree!
Hitty Pitty within the wall,
Hitty Pitty without the wall;
If you touch Hitty Pitty,
Hitty Pitty will bite you!"
Mr. Brown woke up suddenly and carried the mole into his house.
He shut the door in Nutkin's face. Presently a little thread of blue SMOKE from a wood fire came up from the top of the tree, and Nutkin peeped through the key-hole and sang—
"A house full, a hole full!
And you cannot gather a bowl-full!"
The squirrels searched for nuts all over the island and filled their little sacks.
But Nutkin gathered oak-apples— yellow and scarlet—and sat upon a beech-stump playing marbles, and watching the door of old Mr. Brown.
On the third day the squirrels got up very early and went fishing; they caught seven fat minnows as a present for Old Brown.
They paddled over the lake and landed under a crooked chestnut tree on Owl Island.
Twinkleberry and six other little squirrels each carried a fat minnow; but Nutkin, who had no nice manners, brought no present at all. He ran in front, singing—
"The man in the wilderness said to me,
`How may strawberries grow in the sea?'
I answered him as I thought good—
`As many red herrings as grow in the wood."'
But old Mr. Brown took no interest in riddles—not even when the answer was provided for him.
On the fourth day the squirrels brought a present of six fat beetles, which were as good as plums in PLUM-PUDDING for Old Brown. Each beetle was wrapped up carefully in a dockleaf, fastened with a pine-needle- pin.
But Nutkin sang as rudely as ever—
"Old Mr. B! riddle-me-ree!
Flour of England, fruit of Spain,
Met together in a shower of rain;
Put in a bag tied round with a string,
If you'll tell me this riddle,
I'll give you a ring!"
Which was ridiculous of Nutkin, because he had not got any ring to give to Old Brown.
The other squirrels hunted up and down the nut bushes; but Nutkin gathered robin's pin-cushions off a briar bush, and stuck them full of pine-needle-pins.
On the fifth day the squirrels brought a present of wild honey; it was so sweet and sticky that they licked their fingers as they put it down upon the stone. They had stolen it out of a bumble BEES' nest on the tippity top of the hill.
But Nutkin skipped up and down, singing—
"Hum-a-bum! buzz! buzz! Hum-a-bum buzz!
As I went over Tipple-tine
I met a flock of bonny swine;
Some yellow-nacked, some yellow backed!
They were the very bonniest swine
That e'er went over the Tipple-tine."
Old Mr. Brown turned up his eyes in disgust at the impertinence of Nutkin.
But he ate up the honey!
The squirrels filled their little sacks with nuts.
But Nutkin sat upon a big flat rock, and played ninepins with a crab apple and green fir-cones.
On the sixth day, which was Saturday, the squirrels came again for the last time; they brought a new-laid EGG in a little rush basket as a last parting present for Old Brown.
But Nutkin ran in front laughing, and shouting—
"Humpty Dumpty lies in the beck,
With a white counterpane round his neck,
Forty doctors and forty wrights,
Cannot put Humpty Dumpty to rights!"
Now old Mr. Brown took an interest in eggs; he opened one eye and shut it again. But still he did not speak.
Nutkin became more and more impertinent—
"Old Mr. B! Old Mr. B!
Hickamore, Hackamore, on the King's
All the King's horses, and all the King's men,
Couldn't drive Hickamore, Hackamore,
Off the King's kitchen door!"
Nutkin danced up and down like a SUNBEAM; but still Old Brown said nothing at all.
Nutkin began again—
"Authur O'Bower has broken his band,
He comes roaring up the land!
The King of Scots with all his power,
Cannot turn Arthur of the Bower!"
Nutkin made a whirring noise to sound like the WIND, and he took a running jump right onto the head of Old Brown! . . .
Then all at once there was a flutterment and a scufflement and a loud "Squeak!"
The other squirrels scuttered away into the bushes.
When they came back very cautiously, peeping round the tree— there was Old Brown sitting on his door-step, quite still, with his eyes closed, as if nothing had happened.
BUT NUTKIN WAS IN HIS WAISTCOAT POCKET!
This looks like the end of the story; but it isn't.
Old Brown carried Nutkin into his house, and held him up by the tail, intending to skin him; but Nutkin pulled so very hard that his tail broke in two, and he dashed up the staircase, and escaped out of the attic window.
And to this day, if you meet Nutkin up a tree and ask him a riddle, he will throw sticks at you, and stamp his feet and scold, and shout—
[For the Children of Sawrey from Old Mr. Bunny]
One morning a little rabbit sat on a bank.
He pricked his ears and listened to the trit-trot, trit-trot of a pony.
A gig was coming along the road; it was driven by Mr. McGregor, and beside him sat Mrs. McGregor in her best bonnet.
As soon as they had passed, little Benjamin Bunny slid down into the road, and set off—with a hop, skip, and a jump—to call upon his relations, who lived in the wood at the back of Mr. McGregor's garden.
That wood was full of rabbit holes; and in the neatest, sandiest hole of all lived Benjamin's aunt and his cousins—Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.
Old Mrs. Rabbit was a widow; she earned her living by knitting rabbit-wool mittens and muffatees (I once bought a pair at a bazaar). She also sold herbs, and rosemary tea, and rabbit-tobacco (which is what we call lavender).
Little Benjamin did not very much want to see his Aunt.
He came round the back of the fir- tree, and nearly tumbled upon the top of his Cousin Peter.
Peter was sitting by himself. He looked poorly, and was dressed in a red cotton pocket-handkerchief.
"Peter," said little Benjamin, in a whisper, "who has got your clothes?"
Peter replied, "The scarecrow in Mr. McGregor's garden," and described how he had been chased about the garden, and had dropped his shoes and coat.
Little Benjamin sat down beside his cousin and assured him that Mr. McGregor had gone out in a gig, and Mrs. McGregor also; and certainly for the day, because she was wearing her best bonnet.
Peter said he hoped that it would rain.
At this point old Mrs. Rabbit's voice was heard inside the rabbit hole, calling: "Cotton-tail! Cotton-tail! fetch some more camomile!"
Peter said he thought he might feel better if he went for a walk.
They went away hand in hand, and got upon the flat top of the wall at the bottom of the wood. From here they looked down into Mr. McGregor's garden. Peter's coat and shoes were plainly to be seen upon the scarecrow, topped with an old tam-o'-shanter of Mr. McGregor's.
Little Benjamin said: "It spoils people's clothes to squeeze under a gate; the proper way to get in is to climb down a pear-tree."
Peter fell down head first; but it was of no consequence, as the bed below was newly raked and quite soft.
It had been sown with lettuces.
They left a great many odd little footmarks all over the bed, especially little Benjamin, who was wearing clogs.
Little Benjamin said that the first thing to be done was to get back Peter's clothes, in order that they might be able to use the pocket- handkerchief.
They took them off the scarecrow. There had been rain during the night; there was water in the shoes, and the coat was somewhat shrunk.
Benjamin tried on the tam-o'- shanter, but it was too big for him.
Then he suggested that they should fill the pocket-handkerchief with onions, as a little present for his Aunt.
Peter did not seem to be enjoying himself; he kept hearing noises.
Benjamin, on the contrary, was perfectly at home, and ate a lettuce leaf. He said that he was in the habit of coming to the garden with his father to get lettuces for their Sunday dinner.
(The name of little Benjamin's papa was old Mr. Benjamin Bunny.)
The lettuces certainly were very fine.
Peter did not eat anything; he said he should like to go home. Presently he dropped half the onions.
Little Benjamin said that it was not possible to get back up the pear-tree with a load of vegetables. He led the way boldly towards the other end of the garden. They went along a little walk on planks, under a sunny, red brick wall.
The mice sat on their doorsteps cracking cherry-stones; they winked at Peter Rabbit and little Benjamin Bunny.
Presently Peter let the pocket- handkerchief go again.
They got amongst flower-pots, and frames, and tubs. Peter heard noises worse than ever; his eyes were as big as lolly-pops!
He was a step or two in front of his cousin when he suddenly stopped.
This is what those little rabbits saw round that corner!
Little Benjamin took one look, and then, in half a minute less than no time, he hid himself and Peter and the onions underneath a large basket. . . .
The cat got up and stretched herself, and came and sniffed at the basket.
Perhaps she liked the smell of onions!
Anyway, she sat down upon the top of the basket.
She sat there for FIVE HOURS.
I cannot draw you a picture of Peter and Benjamin underneath the basket, because it was quite dark, and because the smell of onions was fearful; it made Peter Rabbit and little Benjamin cry.
The sun got round behind the wood, and it was quite late in the afternoon; but still the cat sat upon the basket.
At length there was a pitter-patter, pitter-patter, and some bits of mortar fell from the wall above.
The cat looked up and saw old Mr. Benjamin Bunny prancing along the top of the wall of the upper terrace.
He was smoking a pipe of rabbit- tobacco, and had a little switch in his hand.
He was looking for his son.
Old Mr. Bunny had no opinion whatever of cats. He took a tremendous jump off the top of the wall on to the top of the cat, and cuffed it off the basket, and kicked it into the greenhouse, scratching off a handful of fur.
The cat was too much surprised to scratch back.
When old Mr. Bunny had driven the cat into the greenhouse, he locked the door.
Then he came back to the basket and took out his son Benjamin by the ears, and whipped him with the little switch.
Then he took out his nephew Peter.
Then he took out the handkerchief of onions, and marched out of the garden.
When Mr. McGregor returned about half an hour later he observed several things which perplexed him.
It looked as though some person had been walking all over the garden in a pair of clogs—only the footmarks were too ridiculously little!
Also he could not understand how the cat could have managed to shut herself up INSIDE the greenhouse, locking the door upon the OUTSIDE.
When Peter got home his mother forgave him, because she was so
glad to see that he had found his shoes and coat. Cotton-tail and
Peter folded up the pocket-handkerchief, and old Mrs. Rabbit strung
up the onions and hung them from the kitchen ceiling, with the
bunches of herbs and the rabbit- tobacco.
[For W.M.L.W., the Little Girl Who Had the Doll's House]
Once upon a time there was a very beautiful doll's-house; it was red brick with white windows, and it had real muslin curtains and a front door and a chimney.
It belonged to two Dolls called Lucinda and Jane; at least it belonged to Lucinda, but she never ordered meals.
Jane was the Cook; but she never did any cooking, because the dinner had been bought ready-made, in a box full of shavings.
There were two red lobsters and a ham, a fish, a pudding, and some pears and oranges.
They would not come off the plates, but they were extremely beautiful.
One morning Lucinda and Jane had gone out for a drive in the doll's perambulator. There was no one in the nursery, and it was very quiet. Presently there was a little scuffling, scratching noise in a corner near the fireplace, where there was a hole under the skirting-board.
Tom Thumb put out his head for a moment, and then popped it in again. Tom Thumb was a mouse.
A minute afterwards, Hunca Munca, his wife, put her head out, too; and when she saw that there was no one in the nursery, she ventured out on the oilcloth under the coal-box.
The doll's-house stood at the other side of the fire-place. Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca went cautiously across the hearthrug. They pushed the front door—it was not fast.
Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca went upstairs and peeped into the dining-room. Then they squeaked with joy!
Such a lovely dinner was laid out upon the table! There were tin spoons, and lead knives and forks, and two dolly-chairs—all SO convenient!
Tom Thumb set to work at once to carve the ham. It was a beautiful shiny yellow, streaked with red.
The knife crumpled up and hurt him; he put his finger in his mouth.
"It is not boiled enough; it is hard. You have a try, Hunca Munca."
Hunca Munca stood up in her chair, and chopped at the ham with another lead knife.
"It's as hard as the hams at the cheesemonger's," said Hunca Munca.
The ham broke off the plate with a jerk, and rolled under the table.
"Let it alone," said Tom Thumb; "give me some fish, Hunca Munca!"
Hunca Munca tried every tin spoon in turn; the fish was glued to the dish.
Then Tom Thumb lost his temper. He put the ham in the middle of the floor, and hit it with the tongs and with the shovel—bang, bang, smash, smash!
The ham flew all into pieces, for underneath the shiny paint it was made of nothing but plaster!
Then there was no end to the rage and disappointment of Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca. They broke up the pudding, the lobsters, the pears and the oranges.
As the fish would not come off the plate, they put it into the red-hot crinkly paper fire in the kitchen; but it would not burn either.
Tom Thumb went up the kitchen chimney and looked out at the top— there was no soot.
While Tom Thumb was up the chimney, Hunca Munca had another disappointment. She found some tiny canisters upon the dresser, labelled— Rice—Coffee—Sago—but when she turned them upside down, there was nothing inside except red and blue beads.
Then those mice set to work to do all the mischief they could—especially Tom Thumb! He took Jane's clothes out of the chest of drawers in her bedroom, and he threw them out of the top floor window.
But Hunca Munca had a frugal mind. After pulling half the feathers out of Lucinda's bolster, she remembered that she herself was in want of a feather bed.
With Tom Thumbs's assistance she carried the bolster downstairs, and across the hearth-rug. It was difficult to squeeze the bolster into the mouse- hole; but they managed it somehow.
Then Hunca Munca went back and fetched a chair, a book-case, a bird- cage, and several small odds and ends. The book-case and the bird- cage refused to go into the mouse hole.
Hunca Munca left them behind the coal-box, and went to fetch a cradle.
Hunca Munca was just returning with another chair, when suddenly there was a noise of talking outside upon the landing. The mice rushed back to their hole, and the dolls came into the nursery.
What a sight met the eyes of Jane and Lucinda! Lucinda sat upon the upset kitchen stove and stared; and Jane leant against the kitchen dresser and smiled—but neither of them made any remark.
The book-case and the bird-cage were rescued from under the coal- box—but Hunca Munca has got the cradle, and some of Lucinda's clothes.
She also has some useful pots and pans, and several other things.
The little girl that the doll's-house belonged to, said,—"I will get a doll dressed like a policeman!"
But the nurse said,—"I will set a mouse-trap!"
So that is the story of the two Bad Mice,—but they were not so very very naughty after all, because Tom Thumb paid for everything he broke.
He found a crooked sixpence under the hearth-rug; and upon Christmas Eve, he and Hunca Munca stuffed it into one of the stockings of Lucinda and Jane.
And very early every morning— before anybody is awake—Hunca
Munca comes with her dust-pan and her broom to sweep the Dollies'
[For the Real Little Lucie of Newlands]
Once upon a time there was a little girl called Lucie, who lived at a farm called Little-town. She was a good little girl—only she was always losing her pocket-handkerchiefs!
One day little Lucie came into the farm-yard crying—oh, she did cry so! "I've lost my pocket-handkin! Three handkins and a pinny! Have YOU seen them, Tabby Kitten?"
The Kitten went on washing her white paws; so Lucie asked a speckled hen—
"Sally Henny-penny, have YOU found three pocket-handkins?"
But the speckled hen ran into a barn, clucking—
"I go barefoot, barefoot, barefoot!"
And then Lucie asked Cock Robin sitting on a twig. Cock Robin looked sideways at Lucie with his bright black eye, and he flew over a stile and away.
Lucie climbed upon the stile and looked up at the hill behind Little- town—a hill that goes up—up—into the clouds as though it had no top!
And a great way up the hillside she thought she saw some white things spread upon the grass.
Lucie scrambled up the hill as fast as her short legs would carry her; she ran along a steep path-way—up and up—until Little-town was right away down below—she could have dropped a pebble down the chimney!
Presently she came to a spring, bubbling out from the hillside.
Some one had stood a tin can upon a stone to catch the water—but the water was already running over, for the can was no bigger than an egg- cup! And where the sand upon the path was wet—there were footmarks of a VERY small person.
Lucie ran on, and on.
The path ended under a big rock. The grass was short and green, and there were clothes-props cut from bracken stems, with lines of plaited rushes, and a heap of tiny clothes pins—but no pocket-handkerchiefs!
But there was something else—a door! straight into the hill; and inside it some one was singing—
"Lily-white and clean, oh!
With little frills between, oh!
Smooth and hot-red rusty spot
Never here be seen, oh!"
Lucie knocked-once-twice, and interrupted the song. A little frightened voice called out "Who's that?"
Lucie opened the door: and what do you think there was inside the hill?—a nice clean kitchen with a flagged floor and wooden beams— just like any other farm kitchen. Only the ceiling was so low that Lucie's head nearly touched it; and the pots and pans were small, and so was everything there.
There was a nice hot singey smell; and at the table, with an iron in her hand, stood a very stout short person staring anxiously at Lucie.
Her print gown was tucked up, and she was wearing a large apron over her striped petticoat. Her little black nose went sniffle, sniffle, snuffle, and her eyes went twinkle, twinkle; and underneath her cap-where Lucie had yellow curls-that little person had PRICKLES!
"Who are you?" said Lucie. "Have you seen my pocket-handkins?"
The little person made a bob- curtsey—"Oh yes, if you please'm; my name is Mrs. Tiggy-winkle; oh yes if you please'm, I'm an excellent clear- starcher!" And she took something out of the clothesbasket, and spread it on the ironing-blanket.
"What's that thing?" said Lucie- "that's not my pocket-handkin?"
"Oh no, if you please'm; that's a little scarlet waist-coat belonging to Cock Robin!"
And she ironed it and folded it, and put it on one side.
Then she took something else off a clothes-horse—"That isn't my pinny?" said Lucie.
"Oh no, if you please'm; that's a damask table-cloth belonging to Jenny Wren; look how it's stained with currant wine! It's very bad to wash!" said Mrs. Tiggy-winkle.
Mrs. Tiggy-winkle's nose went sniffle sniffle snuffle, and her eyes went twinkle twinkle; and she fetched another hot iron from the fire.
"There's one of my pocket- handkins!" cried Lucie—"and there's my pinny!"
Mrs. Tiggy-winkle ironed it, and goffered it, and shook out the frills.
"Oh that IS lovely!" said Lucie.
"And what are those long yellow things with fingers like gloves?"
"Oh that's a pair of stockings belonging to Sally Henny-penny—look how she's worn the heels out with scratching in the yard! She'll very soon go barefoot!" said Mrs. Tiggy-winkle.
"Why, there's another hankersniff— but it isn't mine; it's red?"
"Oh no, if you please'm; that one belongs to old Mrs. Rabbit; and it DID so smell of onions! I've had to wash it separately, I can't get out that smell."
"There's another one of mine," said Lucie.
"What are those funny little white things?"
"That's a pair of mittens belonging to Tabby Kitten; I only have to iron them; she washes them herself."
"There's my last pocket-handkin!" said Lucie.
"And what are you dipping into the basin of starch?"
"They're little dicky shirt-fronts belonging to Tom Titmouse—most terrible particular!" said Mrs. Tiggy- winkle. "Now I've finished my ironing; I'm going to air some clothes."
"What are these dear soft fluffy things?" said Lucie.
"Oh those are woolly coats belonging to the little lambs at Skelghyl."
"Will their jackets take off?" asked Lucie.
"Oh yes, if you please'm; look at the sheep-mark on the shoulder. And here's one marked for Gatesgarth, and three that come from Little-town. They're ALWAYS marked at washing!" said Mrs. Tiggy-winkle.
And she hung up all sorts and sizes of clothes—small brown coats of mice; and one velvety black moleskin waist-coat; and a red tail-coat with no tail belonging to Squirrel Nutkin; and a very much shrunk blue jacket belonging to Peter Rabbit; and a petticoat, not marked, that had gone lost in the washing—and at last the basket was empty!
Then Mrs. Tiggy-winkle made tea—a cup for herself and a cup for Lucie. They sat before the fire on a bench and looked sideways at one another. Mrs. Tiggy-winkle's hand, holding the tea-cup, was very very brown, and very very wrinkly with the soap-suds; and all through her gown and her cap, there were HAIRPINS sticking wrong end out; so that Lucie didn't like to sit too near her.
When they had finished tea, they tied up the clothes in bundles; and Lucie's pocket-handkerchiefs were folded up inside her clean pinny, and fastened with a silver safety-pin.
And then they made up the fire with turf, and came out and locked the door, and hid the key under the door-sill.
Then away down the hill trotted Lucie and Mrs. Tiggy-winkle with the bundles of clothes!
All the way down the path little animals came out of the fern to meet them; the very first that they met were Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny!
And she gave them their nice clean clothes; and all the little animals and birds were so very much obliged to dear Mrs. Tiggy-winkle.
So that at the bottom of the hill when they came to the stile, there was nothing left to carry except Lucie's one little bundle.
Lucie scrambled up the stile with the bundle in her hand; and then she turned to say "Good-night," and to thank the washer-woman.—But what a VERY odd thing! Mrs. Tiggy-winkle had not waited either for thanks or for the washing bill!
She was running running running up the hill—and where was her white frilled cap? and her shawl? and her gown-and her petticoat?
And HOW small she had grown— and HOW brown—and covered with PRICKLES!
Why! Mrs. Tiggy-winkle was nothing but a HEDGEHOG!
* * * * * *
(Now some people say that little Lucie had been asleep upon the stile—but then how could she have found three clean pocket-handkins and a pinny, pinned with a silver safety-pin?
And besides—I have seen that door into the back of the hill
called Cat Bells—and besides I am very well acquainted with
dear Mrs. Tiggy-winkle!)
Pussy-cat sits by the fire—how should she be fair?
In walks the little dog—says "Pussy are you there?
How do you do Mistress Pussy? Mistress Pussy, how do you do?"
"I thank you kindly, little dog, I fare as well as you!"
Once upon a time there was a Pussy-cat called Ribby, who invited a little dog called Duchess to tea.
"Come in good time, my dear Duchess," said Ribby's letter, "and we will have something so very nice. I am baking it in a pie-dish—a pie-dish with a pink rim. You never tasted anything so good! And YOU shall eat it all! I will eat muffins, my dear Duchess!" wrote Ribby.
"I will come very punctually, my dear Ribby," wrote Duchess; and then at the end she added—"I hope it isn't mouse?"
And then she thought that did not look quite polite; so she scratched out "isn't mouse" and changed it to "I hope it will be fine," and she gave her letter to the postman.
But she thought a great deal about Ribby's pie, and she read Ribby's letter over and over again.
"I am dreadfully afraid it WILL be mouse!" said Duchess to herself—"I really couldn't, COULDN'T eat mouse pie. And I shall have to eat it, because it is a party. And MY pie was going to be veal and ham. A pink and white pie-dish! and so is mine; just like Ribby's dishes; they were both bought at Tabitha Twitchit's."
Duchess went into her larder and took the pie off a shelf and looked at it.
"Oh what a good idea! Why shouldn't I rush along and put my pie into Ribby's oven when Ribby isn't there?"
Ribby in the meantime had received Duchess's answer, and as soon as she was sure that the little dog would come—she popped HER pie into the oven. There were two ovens, one above the other; some other knobs and handles were only ornamental and not intended to open. Ribby put the pie into the lower oven; the door was very stiff.
"The top oven bakes too quickly," said Ribby to herself.
Ribby put on some coal and swept up the hearth. Then she went out with a can to the well, for water to fill up the kettle.
Then she began to set the room in order, for it was the sitting-room as well as the kitchen.
When Ribby had laid the table she went out down the field to the farm, to fetch milk and butter.
When she came back, she peeped into the bottom oven; the pie looked very comfortable.
Ribby put on her shawl and bonnet and went out again with a basket, to the village shop to buy a packet of tea, a pound of lump sugar, and a pot of marmalade.
And just at the same time, Duchess came out of HER house, at the other end of the village.
Ribby met Duchess half-way down the street, also carrying a basket, covered with a cloth. They only bowed to one another; they did not speak, because they were going to have a party.
As soon as Duchess had got round the corner out of sight—she simply ran! Straight away to Ribby's house!
Ribby went into the shop and bought what she required, and came out, after a pleasant gossip with Cousin Tabitha Twitchit.
Ribby went on to Timothy Baker's and bought the muffins. Then she went home.
There seemed to be a sort of scuffling noise in the back passage, as she was coming in at the front door. But there was nobody there.
Duchess in the meantime, had slipped out at the back door.
"It is a very odd thing that Ribby's pie was NOT in the oven when I put mine in! And I can't find it anywhere; I have looked all over the house. I put MY pie into a nice hot oven at the top. I could not turn any of the other handles; I think that they are all shams," said Duchess, "but I wish I could have removed the pie made of mouse! I cannot think what she has done with it? I heard Ribby coming and I had to run out by the back door!"
Duchess went home and brushed her beautiful black coat; and then she picked a bunch of flowers in her garden as a present for Ribby; and passed the time until the clock struck four.
Ribby—having assured herself by careful search that there was really no one hiding in the cupboard or in the larder—went upstairs to change her dress.
She came downstairs again, and made the tea, and put the teapot on the hob. She peeped again into the BOTTOM oven, the pie had become a lovely brown, and it was steaming hot.
She sat down before the fire to wait for the little dog. "I am glad I used the BOTTOM oven," said Ribby, "the top one would certainly have been very much too hot."
Very punctually at four o'clock, Duchess started to go to the party.
At a quarter past four to the minute, there came a most genteel little tap-tappity. "Is Mrs. Ribston at home?" inquired Duchess in the porch.
"Come in! and how do you do, my dear Duchess?" cried Ribby. "I hope I see you well?"
"Quite well, I thank you, and how do YOU do, my dear Ribby?" said Duchess. "I've brought you some flowers; what a delicious smell of pie!"
"Oh, what lovely flowers! Yes, it is mouse and bacon!"
"I think it wants another five minutes," said Ribby. "Just a shade longer; I will pour out the tea, while we wait. Do you take sugar, my dear Duchess?"
"Oh yes, please! my dear Ribby; and may I have a lump upon my nose?"
"With pleasure, my dear Duchess."
Duchess sat up with the sugar on her nose and sniffed—
"How good that pie smells! I do love veal and ham—I mean to say mouse and bacon—"
She dropped the sugar in confusion, and had to go hunting under the tea- table, so did not see which oven Ribby opened in order to get out the pie.
Ribby set the pie upon the table; there was a very savoury smell.
Duchess came out from under the table-cloth munching sugar, and sat up on a chair.
"I will first cut the pie for you; I am going to have muffin and marmalade," said Ribby.
"I think"—(thought Duchess to herself)—"I THINK it would be wiser if I helped myself to pie; though Ribby did not seem to notice anything when she was cutting it. What very small fine pieces it has cooked into! I did not remember that I had minced it up so fine; I suppose this is a quicker oven than my own."
The pie-dish was emptying rapidly! Duchess had had four helps already, and was fumbling with the spoon.
"A little more bacon, my dear Duchess?" said Ribby.
"Thank you, my dear Ribby; I was only feeling for the patty-pan."
"The patty-pan? my dear Duchess?"
"The patty pan that held up the pie-crust," said Duchess, blushing under her black coat.
"Oh, I didn't put one in, my dear Duchess," said Ribby; "I don't think that it is necessary in pies made of mouse."
Duchess fumbled with the spoon— "I can't find it!" she said anxiously.
"There isn't a patty-pan," said Ribby, looking perplexed.
"Yes, indeed, my dear Ribby; where can it have gone to?" said Duchess.
Duchess looked very much alarmed, and continued to scoop the inside of the pie-dish.
"I have only four patty-pans, and they are all in the cupboard."
Duchess set up a howl.
"I shall die! I shall die! I have swallowed a patty-pan! Oh, my dear Ribby, I do feel so ill!"
"It is impossible, my dear Duchess; there was not a patty-pan."
"Yes there WAS, my dear Ribby, I am sure I have swallowed it!"
"Let me prop you up with a pillow, my dear Duchess; where do you think you feel it?"
"Oh I do feel so ill ALL OVER me, my dear Ribby."
"Shall I run for the doctor?"
"Oh yes, yes! fetch Dr. Maggotty, my dear Ribby: he is a Pie himself, he will certainly understand."
Ribby settled Duchess in an armchair before the fire, and went out and hurried to the village to look for the doctor.
She found him at the smithy.
Ribby explained that her guest had swallowed a patty-pan.
Dr. Maggotty hopped so fast that Ribby had to run. It was most conspicuous. All the village could see that Ribby was fetching the doctor.
But while Ribby had been hunting for the doctor—a curious thing had happened to Duchess, who had been left by herself, sitting before the fire, sighing and groaning and feeling very unhappy.
"How COULD I have swallowed it! such a large thing as a patty-pan!"
She sat down again, and stared mournfully at the grate. The fire crackled and danced, and something sizz-z-zled!
Duchess started! She opened the door of the TOP oven;—out came a rich steamy flavour of veal and ham, and there stood a fine brown pie,— and through a hole in the top of the pie-crust there was a glimpse of a little tin patty-pan!
Duchess drew a long breath—
"Then I must have been eating MOUSE! . . . No wonder I feel ill. . . . But perhaps I should feel worse if I had really swallowed a patty-pan!" Duchess reflected—"What a very awkward thing to have to explain to Ribby! I think I will put MY pie in the back-yard and say nothing about it. When I go home, I will run round and take it away." She put it outside the back-door, and sat down again by the fire, and shut her eyes; when Ribby arrived with the doctor, she seemed fast asleep.
"I am feeling very much better," said Duchess, waking up with a jump.
"I am truly glad to hear it! He has brought you a pill, my dear Duchess!"
"I think I should feel QUITE well if he only felt my pulse," said Duchess, backing away from the magpie, who sidled up with something in his beak.
"It is only a bread pill, you had much better take it; drink a little milk, my dear Duchess!"
"I am feeling very much better, my dear Ribby," said Duchess. "Do you not think that I had better go home before it gets dark?"
"Perhaps it might be wise, my dear Duchess."
Ribby and Duchess said good-bye affectionately, and Duchess started home. Half-way up the lane she stopped and looked back; Ribby had gone in and shut her door. Duchess slipped through the fence, and ran round to the back of Ribby's house, and peeped into the yard.
Upon the roof of the pig-stye sat Dr. Maggotty and three jackdaws. The jackdaws were eating piecrust, and the magpie was drinking gravy out of a patty-pan.
Duchess ran home feeling uncommonly silly!
When Ribby came out for a pailful of water to wash up the tea-things, she found a pink and white pie-dish lying smashed in the middle of the yard.
Ribby stared with amazement— "Did you ever see the like! so there
really WAS a patty-pan? . . . But MY patty-pans are all in the
kitchen cupboard. Well I never did! . . . Next time I want to give a
party—I will invite Cousin Tabitha Twitchit!"
[For Stephanie from Cousin B.]
Once upon a time there was a frog called Mr. Jeremy Fisher; he lived in a little damp house amongst the buttercups at the edge of a pond.
The water was all slippy-sloppy in the larder and in the back passage.
But Mr. Jeremy liked getting his feet wet; nobody ever scolded him, and he never caught a cold!
He was quite pleased when he looked out and saw large drops of rain, splashing in the pond—
"I will get some worms and go fishing and catch a dish of minnows for my dinner," said Mr. Jeremy Fisher. "If I catch more than five fish, I will invite my friends Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise and Sir Isaac Newton. The Alderman, however, eats salad."
Mr. Jeremy put on a mackintosh, and a pair of shiny galoshes; he took his rod and basket, and set off with enormous hops to the place where he kept his boat.
The boat was round and green, and very like the other lily-leaves. It was tied to a water-plant in the middle of the pond.
Mr. Jeremy took a reed pole, and pushed the boat out into open water. "I know a good place for minnows," said Mr. Jeremy Fisher.
Mr. Jeremy stuck his pole into the mud and fastened the boat to it.
Then he settled himself cross- legged and arranged his fishing tackle. He had the dearest little red float. His rod was a tough stalk of grass, his line was a fine long white horse-hair, and he tied a little wriggling worm at the end.
The rain trickled down his back, and for nearly an hour he stared at the float.
"This is getting tiresome, I think I should like some lunch," said Mr. Jeremy Fisher.
He punted back again amongst the water-plants, and took some lunch out of his basket.
"I will eat a butterfly sandwich, and wait till the shower is over," said Mr. Jeremy Fisher.
A great big water-beetle came up underneath the lily leaf and tweaked the toe of one of his galoshes.
Mr. Jeremy crossed his legs up shorter, out of reach, and went on eating his sandwich.
Once or twice something moved about with a rustle and a splash amongst the rushes at the side of the pond.
"I trust that is not a rat," said Mr. Jeremy Fisher; "I think I had better get away from here."
Mr. Jeremy shoved the boat out again a little way, and dropped in the bait. There was a bite almost directly; the float gave a tremendous bobbit!
"A minnow! a minnow! I have him by the nose!" cried Mr. Jeremy Fisher, jerking up his rod.
But what a horrible surprise! Instead of a smooth fat minnow, Mr. Jeremy landed little Jack Sharp, the stickleback, covered with spines!
The stickleback floundered about the boat, pricking and snapping until he was quite out of breath. Then he jumped back into the water.
And a shoal of other little fishes put their heads out, and laughed at Mr. Jeremy Fisher.
And while Mr. Jeremy sat disconsolately on the edge of his boat—sucking his sore fingers and peering down into the water—a MUCH worse thing happened; a really FRIGHTFUL thing it would have been, if Mr. Jeremy had not been wearing a mackintosh!
A great big enormous trout came up—ker-pflop-p-p-p! with a splash— and it seized Mr. Jeremy with a snap, "Ow! Ow! Ow!"—and then it turned and dived down to the bottom of the pond!
But the trout was so displeased with the taste of the mackintosh, that in less than half a minute it spat him out again; and the only thing it swallowed was Mr. Jeremy's galoshes.
Mr. Jeremy bounced up to the surface of the water, like a cork and the bubbles out of a soda water bottle; and he swam with all his might to the edge of the pond.
He scrambled out on the first bank he came to, and he hopped home across the meadow with his mackintosh all in tatters.
"What a mercy that was not a pike!" said Mr. Jeremy Fisher. "I have lost my rod and basket; but it does not much matter, for I am sure I should never have dared to go fishing again!"
He put some sticking plaster on his fingers, and his friends both came to dinner. He could not offer them fish, but he had something else in his larder.
Sir Isaac Newton wore his black and gold waistcoat.
And Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise brought a salad with him in a string bag.
And instead of a nice dish of minnows, they had a roasted
grasshopper with lady-bird sauce, which frogs consider a beautiful
treat; but I think it must have been nasty!
This is a fierce bad Rabbit; look at his savage whiskers and his claws and his turned-up tail.
This is a nice gentle Rabbit. His mother has given him a carrot.
The bad Rabbit would like some carrot.
He doesn't say "Please." He takes it!
And he scratches the good Rabbit very badly.
The good Rabbit creeps away and hides in a hole. It feels sad.
This is a man with a gun.
He sees something sitting on a bench. He thinks it is a very funny bird!
He comes creeping up behind the trees.
And then he shoots—BANG!
This is what happens—
But this is all he finds on the bench when he rushes up with his gun.
The good Rabbit peeps out of its hole . . .
. . . and it sees the bad Rabbit tearing past—without any tail or
This is a Pussy called Miss Moppet; she thinks she has heard a mouse!
This is the Mouse peeping out behind the cupboard and making fun of Miss Moppet. He is not afraid of a kitten.
This is Miss Moppet jumping just too late; she misses the Mouse and hits her own head.
She thinks it is a very hard cupboard!
The Mouse watches Miss Moppet from the top of the cupboard.
Miss Moppet ties up her head in a duster and sits before the fire.
The Mouse thinks she is looking very ill. He comes sliding down the bell-pull.
Miss Moppet looks worse and worse. The Mouse comes a little nearer.
Miss Moppet holds her poor head in her paws and looks at him through a hole in the duster. The Mouse comes VERY close.
And then all of a sudden—Miss Moppet jumps upon the Mouse!
And because the Mouse has teased Miss Moppet—Miss Moppet thinks she will tease the Mouse, which is not at all nice of Miss Moppet.
She ties him up in the duster and tosses it about like a ball.
But she forgot about that hole in the duster; and when she untied it— there was no Mouse!
He has wriggled out and run away; and he is dancing a jig on top
of the cupboard!
[Dedicated to All Pickles, —Especially to Those That Get upon My Garden Wall]
Once upon a time there were three little kittens, and their names were Mittens, Tom Kitten, and Moppet.
They had dear little fur coats of their own; and they tumbled about the doorstep and played in the dust.
But one day their mother—Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit—expected friends to tea; so she fetched the kittens indoors, to wash and dress them, before the fine company arrived.
First she scrubbed their faces (this one is Moppet).
Then she brushed their fur (this one is Mittens).
Then she combed their tails and whiskers (this is Tom Kitten).
Tom was very naughty, and he scratched.
Mrs. Tabitha dressed Moppet and Mittens in clean pinafores and tuckers; and then she took all sorts of elegant uncomfortable clothes out of a chest of drawers, in order to dress up her son Thomas.
Tom Kitten was very fat, and he had grown; several buttons burst off. His mother sewed them on again.
When the three kittens were ready, Mrs. Tabitha unwisely turned them out into the garden, to be out of the way while she made hot buttered toast.
"Now keep your frocks clean, children! You must walk on your hind legs. Keep away from the dirty ash- pit, and from Sally Henny Penny, and from the pigsty and the Puddle- ducks."
Moppet and Mittens walked down the garden path unsteadily. Presently they trod upon their pinafores and fell on their noses.
When they stood up there were several green smears!
"Let us climb up the rockery and sit on the garden wall," said Moppet.
They turned their pinafores back to front and went up with a skip and a jump; Moppet's white tucker fell down into the road.
Tom Kitten was quite unable to jump when walking upon his hind legs in trousers. He came up the rockery by degrees, breaking the ferns and shedding buttons right and left.
He was all in pieces when he reached the top of the wall.
Moppet and Mittens tried to pull him together; his hat fell off, and the rest of his buttons burst.
While they were in difficulties, there was a pit pat, paddle pat! and the three Puddle-ducks came along the hard high road, marching one behind the other and doing the goose step— pit pat, paddle pat! pit pat, waddle pat!
They stopped and stood in a row and stared up at the kittens. They had very small eyes and looked surprised. Then the two duck-birds, Rebeccah and Jemima Puddle-duck, picked up the hat and tucker and put them on.
Mittens laughed so that she fell off the wall. Moppet and Tom descended after her; the pinafores and all the rest of Tom's clothes came off on the way down.
"Come! Mr. Drake Puddle-duck," said Moppet. "Come and help us to dress him! Come and button up Tom!"
Mr. Drake Puddle-duck advanced in a slow sideways manner and picked up the various articles.
But he put them on HIMSELF! They fitted him even worse than Tom Kitten.
"It's a very fine morning!" said Mr. Drake Puddle-duck.
And he and Jemima and Rebeccah Puddle-duck set off up the road, keeping step—pit pat, paddle pat! pit pat, waddle pat!
Then Tabitha Twitchit came down the garden and found her kittens on the wall with no clothes on.
She pulled them off the wall, smacked them, and took them back to the house.
"My friends will arrive in a minute, and you are not fit to be seen; I am affronted," said Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit.
She sent them upstairs; and I am sorry to say she told her friends that they were in bed with the measles— which was not true.
Quite the contrary; they were not in bed: NOT in the least.
Somehow there were very extra— ordinary noises overhead, which disturbed the dignity and repose of the tea party.
And I think that some day I shall have to make another, larger book, to tell you more about Tom Kitten!
As for the Puddle-ducks—they went into a pond.
The clothes all came off directly, because there were no buttons.
And Mr. Drake Puddle-duck, and Jemima and Rebeccah, have been
looking for them ever since.
[A Farmyard Tale for Ralph and Betsy]
What a funny sight it is to see a brood of ducklings with a hen!
Listen to the story of Jemima Puddle-duck, who was annoyed because the farmer's wife would not let her hatch her own eggs.
Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Rebeccah Puddle-duck, was perfectly willing to leave the hatching to someone else— "I have not the patience to sit on a nest for twenty-eight days; and no more have you, Jemima. You would let them go cold; you know you would!"
"I wish to hatch my own eggs; I will hatch them all by myself," quacked Jemima Puddle-duck.
She tried to hide her eggs; but they were always found and carried off.
Jemima Puddle-duck became quite desperate. She determined to make a nest right away from the farm.
She set off on a fine spring afternoon along the cart road that leads over the hill.
She was wearing a shawl and a poke bonnet.
When she reached the top of the hill, she saw a wood in the distance.
She thought that it looked a safe quiet spot.
Jemima Puddle-duck was not much in the habit of flying. She ran downhill a few yards flapping her shawl, and then she jumped off into the air.
She flew beautifully when she had got a good start.
She skimmed along over the treetops until she saw an open place in the middle of the wood, where the trees and brushwood had been cleared.
Jemima alighted rather heavily and began to waddle about in search of a convenient dry nesting place. She rather fancied a tree stump amongst some tall foxgloves.
But—seated upon the stump, she was startled to find an elegantly dressed gentleman reading a newspaper. He had black prick ears and sandy coloured whiskers.
"Quack?" said Jemima Puddle- duck, with her head and her bonnet on the one side—"Quack?"
The gentleman raised his eyes above his newspaper and looked curiously at Jemima—
"Madam, have you lost your way?" said he. He had a long bushy tail which he was sitting upon, as the stump was somewhat damp.
Jemima thought him mighty civil and handsome. She explained that she had not lost her way, but that she was trying to find a convenient dry nesting place.
"Ah! is that so? Indeed!" said the gentleman with sandy whiskers, looking curiously at Jemima. He folded up the newspaper and put it in his coattail pocket.
Jemima complained of the superfluous hen.
"Indeed! How interesting! I wish I could meet with that fowl. I would teach it to mind its own business!
"But as to a nest—there is no difficulty: I have a sack full of feathers in my woodshed. No, my dear madam, you will be in nobody's way. You may sit there as long as you like," said the bushy long-tailed gentleman.
He led the way to a very retired, dismal-looking house amongst the foxgloves.
It was built of faggots and turf, and there were two broken pails, one on top of another, by way of a chimney.
"This is my summer residence; you would not find my earth—my winter house—so convenient," said the hospitable gentleman.
There was a tumbledown shed at the back of the house, made of old soap boxes. The gentleman opened the door and showed Jemima in.
The shed was almost quite full of feathers—it was almost suffocating; but it was comfortable and very soft.
Jemima Puddle-duck was rather surprised to find such a vast quantity of feathers. But it was very comfortable; and she made a nest without any trouble at all.
When she came out, the sandy- whiskered gentleman was sitting on a log reading the newspaper—at least he had it spread out, but he was looking over the top of it.
He was so polite that he seemed almost sorry to let Jemima go home for the night. He promised to take great care of her nest until she came back again the next day.
He said he loved eggs and ducklings; he should be proud to see a fine nestful in his woodshed.
Jemima Puddle-duck came every afternoon; she laid nine eggs in the nest. They were greeny white and very large. The foxy gentleman admired them immensely. He used to turn them over and count them when Jemima was not there.
At last Jemima told him that she intended to begin to sit next day—"and I will bring a bag of corn with me, so that I need never leave my nest until the eggs are hatched. They might catch cold," said the conscientious Jemima.
"Madam, I beg you not to trouble yourself with a bag; I will provide oats. But before you commence your tedious sitting, I intend to give you a treat. Let us have a dinner party all to ourselves!
"May I ask you to bring up some herbs from the farm garden to make a savoury omelette? Sage and thyme, and mint and two onions, and some parsley. I will provide lard for the stuff—lard for the omelette," said the hospitable gentleman with sandy whiskers.
Jemima Puddle-duck was a simpleton: not even the mention of sage and onions made her suspicious.
She went round the farm garden, nibbling off snippets of all the different sorts of herbs that are used for stuffing roast duck.
And she waddled into the kitchen and got two onions out of a basket.
The collie dog Kep met her coming out, "What are you doing with those onions? Where do you go every afternoon by yourself, Jemima Puddle-duck?"
Jemima was rather in awe of the collie; she told him the whole story.
The collie listened, with his wise head on one side; he grinned when she described the polite gentleman with sandy whiskers.
He asked several questions about the wood and about the exact position of the house and shed.
Then he went out, and trotted down the village. He went to look for two foxhound puppies who were out at walk with the butcher.
Jemima Puddle-duck went up the cart road for the last time, on a sunny afternoon. She was rather burdened with bunches of herbs and two onions in a bag.
She flew over the wood, and alighted opposite the house of the bushy long-tailed gentleman.
He was sitting on a log; he sniffed the air and kept glancing uneasily round the wood. When Jemima alighted he quite jumped.
"Come into the house as soon as you have looked at your eggs. Give me the herbs for the omelette. Be sharp!"
He was rather abrupt. Jemima Puddle-duck had never heard him speak like that.
She felt surprised and uncomfortable.
While she was inside she heard pattering feet round the back of the shed. Someone with a black nose sniffed at the bottom of the door, and them locked it.
Jemima became much alarmed.
A moment afterward there were most awful noises—barking, baying, growls and howls, squealing and groans.
And nothing more was ever seen of that foxy-whiskered gentleman.
Presently Kep opened the door of the shed and let out Jemima Puddle- duck.
Unfortunately the puppies rushed in and gobbled up all the eggs before he could stop them.
He had a bite on his ear, and both the puppies were limping.
Jemima Puddle-duck was escorted home in tears on account of those eggs.
She laid some more in June, and she was permitted to keep them herself: but only four of them hatched.
Jemima Puddle-duck said that it was because of her nerves; but she
had always been a bad sitter.
[In Remembrance of "Sammy," the Intelligent Pink-Eyed Representative of a Persecuted (But Irrepressible) Race. An Affectionate Little Friend, and Most Accomplished Thief!]
Once upon a time there was an old cat, called Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit, who was an anxious parent. She used to lose her kittens continually, and whenever they were lost they were always in mischief!
On baking day she determined to shut them up in a cupboard.
She caught Moppet and Mittens, but she could not find Tom.
Mrs. Tabitha went up and down all over the house, mewing for Tom Kitten. She looked in the pantry under the staircase, and she searched the best spare bedroom that was all covered up with dust sheets. She went right upstairs and looked into the attics, but she could not find him anywhere.
It was an old, old house, full of cupboards and passages. Some of the walls were four feet thick, and there used to be queer noises inside them, as if there might be a little secret staircase. Certainly there were odd little jagged doorways in the wainscot, and things disappeared at night— especially cheese and bacon.
Mrs. Tabitha became more and more distracted and mewed dreadfully.
While their mother was searching the house, Moppet and Mittens had got into mischief.
The cupboard door was not locked, so they pushed it open and came out.
They went straight to the dough which was set to rise in a pan before the fire.
They patted it with their little soft paws—"Shall we make dear little muffins?" said Mittens to Moppet.
But just at that moment somebody knocked at the front door, and Moppet jumped into the flour barrel in a fright.
Mittens ran away to the dairy and hid in an empty jar on the stone shelf where the milk pans stand.
The visitor was a neighbor, Mrs. Ribby; she had called to borrow some yeast.
Mr. Tabitha came downstairs mewing dreadfully—"Come in, Cousin Ribby, come in, and sit ye down! I'm in sad trouble, Cousin Ribby," said Tabitha, shedding tears. "I've lost my dear son Thomas; I'm afraid the rats have got him." She wiped her eyes with her apron.
"He's a bad kitten, Cousin Tabitha; he made a cat's cradle of my best bonnet last time I came to tea. Where have you looked for him?"
"All over the house! The rats are too many for me. What a thing it is to have an unruly family!" said Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit.
"I'm not afraid of rats; I will help you to find him; and whip him, too! What is all that soot in the fender?"
"The chimney wants sweeping— Oh, dear me, Cousin Ribby—now Moppet and Mittens are gone!
"They have both got out of the cupboard!"
Ribby and Tabitha set to work to search the house thoroughly again. They poked under the beds with Ribby's umbrella and they rummaged in cupboards. They even fetched a candle and looked inside a clothes chest in one of the attics. They could not find anything, but once they heard a door bang and somebody scuttered downstairs.
"Yes, it is infested with rats," said Tabitha tearfully. "I caught seven young ones out of one hole in the back kitchen, and we had them for dinner last Saturday. And once I saw the old father rat—an enormous old rat— Cousin Ribby. I was just going to jump upon him, when he showed his yellow teeth at me and whisked down the hole.
"The rats get upon my nerves, Cousin Ribby," said Tabitha.
Ribby and Tabitha searched and searched. They both heard a curious roly-poly noise under the attic floor. But there was nothing to be seen.
They returned to the kitchen. "Here's one of your kittens at least," said Ribby, dragging Moppet out of the flour barrel.
They shook the flour off her and set her down on the kitchen floor. She seemed to be in a terrible fright.
"Oh! Mother, Mother," said Moppet, "there's been an old woman rat in the kitchen, and she's stolen some of the dough!"
The two cats ran to look at the dough pan. Sure enough there were marks of little scratching fingers, and a lump of dough was gone!
"Which way did she go, Moppet?"
But Moppet had been too much frightened to peep out of the barrel again.
Ribby and Tabitha took her with them to keep her safely in sight, while they went on with their search.
They went into the dairy.
The first thing they found was Mittens, hiding in an empty jar.
They tipped over the jar, and she scrambled out.
"Oh, Mother, Mother!" said Mittens—
"Oh! Mother, Mother, there has been an old man rat in the dairy—a dreadful 'normous big rat, Mother; and he's stolen a pat of butter and the rolling pin."
Ribby and Tabitha looked at one another.
"A rolling pin and butter! Oh, my poor son Thomas!" exclaimed Tabitha, wringing her paws.
"A rolling pin?" said Ribby. "Did we not hear a roly-poly noise in the attic when we were looking into that chest?"
Ribby and Tabitha rushed upstairs again. Sure enough the roly-poly noise was still going on quite distinctly under the attic floor.
"This is serious, Cousin Tabitha," said Ribby. "We must send for John Joiner at once, with a saw."
Now, this is what had been happening to Tom Kitten, and it shows how very unwise it is to go up a chimney in a very old house, where a person does not know his way, and where there are enormous rats.
Tom Kitten did not want to be shut up in a cupboard. When he saw that his mother was going to bake, he determined to hide.
He looked about for a nice convenient place, and he fixed upon the chimney.
The fire had only just been lighted, and it was not hot; but there was a white choky smoke from the green sticks. Tom Kitten got upon the fender and looked up. It was a big old- fashioned fireplace.
The chimney itself was wide enough inside for a man to stand up and walk about. So there was plenty of room for a little Tom Cat.
He jumped right up into the fireplace, balancing himself upon the iron bar where the kettle hangs.
Tom Kitten took another big jump off the bar and landed on a ledge high up inside the chimney, knocking down some soot into the fender.
Tom Kitten coughed and choked with the smoke; he could hear the sticks beginning to crackle and burn in the fireplace down below. He made up his mind to climb right to the top, and get out on the slates, and try to catch sparrows.
"I cannot go back. If I slipped I might fall in the fire and singe my beautiful tail and my little blue jacket."
The chimney was a very big old- fashioned one. It was built in the days when people burnt logs of wood upon the hearth.
The chimney stack stood up above the roof like a little stone tower, and the daylight shone down from the top, under the slanting slates that kept out the rain.
Tom Kitten was getting very frightened! He climbed up, and up, and up.
Then he waded sideways through inches of soot. He was like a little sweep himself.
It was most confusing in the dark. One flue seemed to lead into another.
There was less smoke, but Tom Kitten felt quite lost.
He scrambled up and up; but before he reached the chimney top he came to a place where somebody had loosened a stone in the wall. There were some mutton bones lying about.
"This seems funny," said Tom Kitten. "Who has been gnawing bones up here in the chimney? I wish I had never come! And what a funny smell? It is something like mouse, only dreadfully strong. It makes me sneeze," said Tom Kitten.
He squeezed through the hole in the wall and dragged himself along a most uncomfortably tight passage where there was scarcely any light.
He groped his way carefully for several yards; he was at the back of the skirting board in the attic, where there is a little mark * in the picture.
All at once he fell head over heels in the dark, down a hole, and landed on a heap of very dirty rags.
When Tom Kitten picked himself up and looked about him, he found himself in a place that he had never seen before, although he had lived all his life in the house. It was a very small stuffy fusty room, with boards, and rafters, and cobwebs, and lath and plaster.
Opposite to him—as far away as he could sit—was an enormous rat.
"What do you mean by tumbling into my bed all covered with smuts?" said the rat, chattering his teeth.
"Please, sir, the chimney wants sweeping," said poor Tom Kitten.
"Anna Maria! Anna Maria!" squeaked the rat. There was a pattering noise and an old woman rat poked her head round a rafter.
All in a minute she rushed upon Tom Kitten, and before he knew what was happening. . .
. . . his coat was pulled off, and he was rolled up in a bundle, and tied with string in very hard knots.
Anna Maria did the tying. The old rat watched her and took snuff. When she had finished, they both sat staring at him with their mouths open.
"Anna Maria," said the old man rat (whose name was Samuel Whiskers), "Anna Maria, make me a kitten dumpling roly-poly pudding for my dinner."
"It requires dough and a pat of butter and a rolling pin," said Anna Maria, considering Tom Kitten with her head on one side.
"No," said Samuel Whiskers, "make it properly, Anna Maria, with breadcrumbs."
"Nonsense! Butter and dough," replied Anna Maria.
The two rats consulted together for a few minutes and then went away.
Samuel Whiskers got through a hole in the wainscot and went boldly down the front staircase to the dairy to get the butter. He did not meet anybody.
He made a second journey for the rolling pin. He pushed it in front of him with his paws, like a brewer's man trundling a barrel.
He could hear Ribby and Tabitha talking, but they were too busy lighting the candle to look into the chest.
They did not see him.
Anna Maria went down by way of skirting board and a window shutter to the kitchen to steal the dough.
She borrowed a small saucer and scooped up the dough with her paws.
She did not observe Moppet.
While Tom Kitten was left alone under the floor of the attic, he wriggled about and tried to mew for help.
But his mouth was full of soot and cobwebs, and he was tied up in such very tight knots, he could not make anybody hear him.
Except a spider who came out of a crack in the ceiling and examined the knots critically, from a safe distance.
It was a judge of knots because it had a habit of tying up unfortunate bluebottles. It did not offer to assist him.
Tom Kitten wriggled and squirmed until he was quite exhausted.
Presently the rats came back and set to work to make him into a dumpling. First they smeared him with butter, and then they rolled him in the dough.
"Will not the string be very indigestible, Anna Maria?" inquired Samuel Whiskers.
Anna Maria said she thought that it was of no consequence; but she wished that Tom Kitten would hold his head still, as it disarranged the pastry. She laid hold of his ears.
Tom Kitten bit and spit, and mewed and wriggled; and the rolling pin went roly-poly, roly; roly-poly, roly. The rats each held an end.
"His tail is sticking out! You did not fetch enough dough, Anna Maria."
"I fetched as much as I could carry," replied Anna Maria.
"I do not think"—said Samuel Whiskers, pausing to take a look at Tom Kitten—"I do NOT think it will be a good pudding. It smells sooty."
Anna Maria was about to argue the point when all at once there began to be other sounds up above—the rasping noise of a saw, and the noise of a little dog, scratching and yelping!
The rats dropped the rolling pin and listened attentively.
"We are discovered and interrupted, Anna Maria; let us collect our property—and other people's—and depart at once.
"I fear that we shall be obliged to leave this pudding.
"But I am persuaded that the knots would have proved indigestible, whatever you may urge to the contrary."
"Come away at once and help me to tie up some mutton bones in a counterpane," said Anna Maria. "I have got half a smoked ham hidden in the chimney."
So it happened that by the time John Joiner had got the plank up— there was nobody here under the floor except the rolling pin and Tom Kitten in a very dirty dumpling!
But there was a strong smell of rats; and John Joiner spent the rest of the morning sniffing and whining, and wagging his tail, and going round and round with his head in the hole like a gimlet.
Then he nailed the plank down again and put his tools in his bag, and came downstairs.
The cat family had quite recovered. They invited him to stay to dinner.
The dumpling had been peeled off Tom Kitten and made separately into a bag pudding, with currants in it to hide the smuts.
They had been obliged to put Tom Kitten into a hot bath to get the butter off.
John Joiner smelt the pudding; but he regretted that he had not time to stay to dinner, because he had just finished making a wheelbarrow for Miss Potter, and she had ordered two hen coops.
And when I was going to the post late in the afternoon—I looked up the land from the corner, and I saw Mr. Samuel Whiskers and his wife on the run, with big bundles on a little wheelbarrow, which looked very much like mine.
They were just turning in at the gate to the barn of Farmer Potatoes.
Samuel Whiskers was puffing and out of breath. Anna Maria was still arguing in shrill tones.
She seemed to know her way, and she seemed to have a quantity of luggage.
I am sure I never gave her leave to borrow my wheelbarrow!
They went into the barn and hauled their parcels with a bit of string to the top of the haymow.
After that, there were no more rats for a long time at Tabitha Twitchit's.
As for Farmer Potatoes, he has been driven nearly distracted. There are rats, and rats, and rats in his barn! They eat up the chicken food, and steal the oats and bran, and make holes in the meal bags.
And they are all descended from Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Whiskers— children and grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
There is no end to them!
Moppet and Mittens have grown up into very good rat-catchers.
They go out rat-catching in the village, and they find plenty of employment. They charge so much a dozen and earn their living very comfortably.
They hang up the rats' tails in a row on the barn door, to show how many they have caught—dozens and dozens of them.
But Tom Kitten has always been afraid of a rat; he never durst
face anything that is bigger than— A Mouse.
[For All Little Friends of Mr. McGregor and Peter and Benjamin]
It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is "soporific."
I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit.
They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!
When Benjamin Bunny grew up, he married his Cousin Flopsy. They had a large family, and they were very improvident and cheerful.
I do not remember the separate names of their children; they were generally called the "Flopsy Bunnies."
As there was not always quite enough to eat,—Benjamin used to borrow cabbages from Flopsy's brother, Peter Rabbit, who kept a nursery garden.
Sometimes Peter Rabbit had no cabbages to spare.
When this happened, the Flopsy Bunnies went across the field to a rubbish heap, in the ditch outside Mr. McGregor's garden.
Mr. McGregor's rubbish heap was a mixture. There were jam pots and paper bags, and mountains of chopped grass from the mowing machine (which always tasted oily), and some rotten vegetable marrows and an old boot or two. One day—oh joy!—there were a quantity of overgrown lettuces, which had "shot" into flower.
The Flopsy Bunnies simply stuffed themselves with lettuces. By degrees, one after another, they were overcome with slumber, and lay down in the mown grass.
Benjamin was not so much overcome as his children. Before going to sleep he was sufficiently wide awake to put a paper bag over his head to keep off the flies.
The little Flopsy Bunnies slept delightfully in the warm sun. From the lawn beyond the garden came the distant clacketty sound of the mowing machine. The blue- bottles buzzed about the wall, and a little old mouse picked over the rubbish among the jam pots.
(I can tell you her name, she was called Thomasina Tittle- mouse, a woodmouse with a long tail.)
She rustled across the paper bag, and awakened Benjamin Bunny.
The mouse apologized profusely, and said that she knew Peter Rabbit.
While she and Benjamin were talking, close under the wall, they heard a heavy tread above their heads; and suddenly Mr. McGregor emptied out a sackbut of lawn mowings right upon the top of the sleeping Flopsy Bunnies! Benjamin shrank down under his paper bag. The mouse hid in a jam pot.
The little rabbits smiled sweetly in their sleep under the shower of grass; they did not awake because the lettuces had been so soporific.
They dreamt that their mother Flopsy was tucking them up in a hay bed.
Mr. McGregor looked down after emptying his sack. He saw some funny little brown tips of ears sticking up through the lawn mowings. He stared at them for some time.
Presently a fly settled on one of them and it moved.
Mr. McGregor climbed down on to the rubbish heap—
"One, two, three, four! five! six little rabbits!" said he as he dropped them into his sack. The Flopsy Bunnies dreamt that their mother was turning them over in bed. They stirred a little in their sleep, but still they did not wake up.
Mr. McGregor tied up the sack and left it on the wall.
He went to put away the mowing machine.
While he was gone, Mrs. Flopsy Bunny (who had remained at home) came across the field.
She looked suspiciously at the sack and wondered where everybody was?
Then the mouse came out of her jam pot, and Benjamin took the paper bag off his head, and they told the doleful tale.
Benjamin and Flopsy were in despair, they could not undo the string.
But Mrs. Tittlemouse was a resourceful person. She nibbled a hole in the bottom corner of the sack.
The little rabbits were pulled out and pinched to wake them.
Their parents stuffed the empty sack with three rotten vegetable marrows, an old blackingbrush and two decayed turnips.
Then they all hid under a bush and watched for Mr. McGregor.
Mr. McGregor came back and picked up the sack, and carried it off.
He carried it hanging down, as if it were rather heavy.
The Flopsy Bunnies followed at a safe distance.
They watched him go into his house.
And then they crept up to the window to listen.
Mr. McGregor threw down the sack on the stone floor in a way that would have been extremely painful to the Flopsy Bunnies, if they had happened to have been inside it.
They could hear him drag his chair on the flags, and chuckle—
"One, two, three, four, five, six little rabbits!" said Mr. McGregor.
"Eh? What's that? What have they been spoiling now?" enquired Mrs. McGregor.
"One, two, three, four, five, six little fat rabbits!" repeated Mr. McGregor, counting on his fingers —"one, two, three—"
"Don't you be silly: what do you mean, you silly old man?"
"In the sack! one, two, three, four, five, six!" replied Mr. McGregor.
(The youngest Flopsy Bunny got upon the windowsill.)
Mrs. McGregor took hold of the sack and felt it. She said she could feel six, but they must be OLD rabbits, because they were so hard and all different shapes.
"Not fit to eat; but the skins will do fine to line my old cloak."
"Line your old cloak?" shouted Mr. McGregor—"I shall sell them and buy myself baccy!"
"Rabbit tobacco! I shall skin them and cut off their heads."
Mrs. McGregor untied the sack and put her hand inside.
When she felt the vegetables she became very very angry. She said that Mr. McGregor had "done it a purpose."
And Mr. McGregor was very angry too. One of the rotten marrows came flying through the kitchen window, and hit the youngest Flopsy Bunny.
It was rather hurt.
Then Benjamin and Flopsy thought that it was time to go home.
So Mr. McGregor did not get his tobacco, and Mrs. McGregor did not get her rabbit skins.
But next Christmas Thomasina Tittlemouse got a present of enough
rabbit wool to make herself a cloak and a hood, and a handsome muff
and a pair of warm mittens.
[Nellie's Little Book]
Once upon a time there was a woodmouse, and her name was Mrs. Tittlemouse.
She lived in a bank under a hedge.
Such a funny house! There were yards and yards of sandy passages, leading to store- rooms and nut cellars and seed cellars, all amongst the roots of the hedge.
There was a kitchen, a parlour, a pantry, and a larder.
Also, there was Mrs. Tittle- mouse's bedroom, where she slept in a little box bed!
Mrs. Tittlemouse was a most terribly tidy particular little mouse, always sweeping and dusting the soft sandy floors.
Sometimes a beetle lost its way in the passages.
"Shuh! shuh! little dirty feet!" said Mrs. Tittlemouse, clattering her dustpan.
And one day a little old woman ran up and down in a red spotty cloak.
"Your house is on fire, Mother Ladybird! Fly away home to your children!"
Another day, a big fat spider came in to shelter from the rain.
"Beg pardon, is this not Miss Muffet's?"
"Go away, you bold bad spider! Leaving ends of cobweb all over my nice clean house!"
She bundled the spider out at a window.
He let himself down the hedge with a long thin bit of string.
Mrs. Tittlemouse went on her way to a distant storeroom, to fetch cherrystones and thistle- down seed for dinner.
All along the passage she sniffed, and looked at the floor.
"I smell a smell of honey; is it the cowslips outside, in the hedge? I am sure I can see the marks of little dirty feet."
Suddenly round a corner, she met Babbitty Bumble—"Zizz, Bizz, Bizzz!" said the bumble bee.
Mrs. Tittlemouse looked at her severely. She wished that she had a broom.
"Good-day, Babbitty Bumble; I should be glad to buy some bees- wax. But what are you doing down here? Why do you always come in at a window, and say, Zizz, Bizz, Bizzz?" Mrs. Tittle- mouse began to get cross.
"Zizz, Wizz, Wizzz!" replied Babbitty Bumble in a peevish squeak. She sidled down a passage, and disappeared into a storeroom which had been used for acorns.
Mrs. Tittlemouse had eaten the acorns before Christmas; the storeroom ought to have been empty.
But it was full of untidy dry moss.
Mrs. Tittlemouse began to pull out the moss. Three or four other bees put their heads out, and buzzed fiercely.
"I am not in the habit of letting lodgings; this is an intrusion!" said Mrs. Tittlemouse. "I will have them turned out —" "Buzz! Buzz! Buzzz!"—"I wonder who would help me?" "Bizz, Wizz, Wizzz!"
—"I will not have Mr. Jackson; he never wipes his feet."
Mrs. Tittlemouse decided to leave the bees till after dinner.
When she got back to the parlour, she heard some one coughing in a fat voice; and there sat Mr. Jackson himself.
He was sitting all over a small rocking chair, twiddling his thumbs and smiling, with his feet on the fender.
He lived in a drain below the hedge, in a very dirty wet ditch.
"How do you do, Mr. Jackson? Deary me, you have got very wet!"
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mrs. Tittlemouse! I'll sit awhile and dry myself," said Mr. Jackson.
He sat and smiled, and the water dripped off his coat tails. Mrs. Tittlemouse went round with a mop.
He sat such a while that he had to be asked if he would take some dinner?
First she offered him cherry- stones. "Thank you, thank you, Mrs. Tittlemouse! No teeth, no teeth, no teeth!" said Mr. Jackson.
He opened his mouth most unnecessarily wide; he certainly had not a tooth in his head.
Then she offered him thistle- down seed—"Tiddly, widdly, widdly! Pouff, pouff, puff." said Mr. Jackson. He blew the thistle- down all over the room.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mrs. Tittlemouse! Now what I really—REALLY should like— would be a little dish of honey!"
"I am afraid I have not got any, Mr. Jackson!" said Mrs. Tittlemouse.
"Tiddly, widdly, widdly, Mrs. Tittlemouse!" said the smiling Mr. Jackson, "I can SMELL it; that is why I came to call."
Mr. Jackson rose ponderously from the table, and began to look into the cupboards.
Mrs. Tittlemouse followed him with a dishcloth, to wipe his large wet footmarks off the parlour floor.
When he had convinced himself that there was no honey in the cupboards, he began to walk down the passage.
"Indeed, indeed, you will stick fast, Mr. Jackson!"
"Tiddly, widdly, widdly, Mrs. Tittlemouse!"
First he squeezed into the pantry.
"Tiddly, widdly, widdly? No honey? No honey, Mrs. Tittlemouse?"
There were three creepy-crawly people hiding in the plate rack. Two of them got away; but the littlest one he caught.
Then he squeezed into the larder. Miss Butterfly was tasting the sugar; but she flew away out of the window.
"Tiddly, widdly, widdly, Mrs. Tittlemouse; you seem to have plenty of visitors!"
"And without any invitation!" said Mrs. Thomasina Tittlemouse.
They went along the sandy passage—"Tiddly, widdly—" "Buzz! Wizz! Wizz!"
He met Babbitty round a corner, and snapped her up, and put her down again.
"I do not like bumble bees. They are all over bristles," said Mr. Jackson, wiping his mouth with his coat sleeve.
"Get out, you nasty old toad!" shrieked Babbitty Bumble.
"I shall go distracted!" scolded Mrs. Tittlemouse.
She shut herself up in the nut cellar while Mr. Jackson pulled out the bees-nest. He seemed to have no objection to stings.
When Mrs. Tittlemouse ventured to come out—everybody had gone away.
But the untidiness was something dreadful—"Never did I see such a mess—smears of honey; and moss, and thistledown—and marks of big and little dirty feet— all over my nice clean house!"
She gathered up the moss and the remains of the bees- wax.
Then she went out and fetched some twigs, to partly close up the front door.
"I will make it too small for Mr. Jackson!"
She fetched soft soap, and flannel, and a new scrubbing brush from the storeroom. But she was too tired to do any more. First she fell asleep in her chair, and then she went to bed.
"Will it ever be tidy again?" said poor Mrs. Tittlemouse.
Next morning she got up very early and began a spring cleaning which lasted a fort- night.
She swept, and scrubbed, and dusted; and she rubbed up the furniture with bees- wax, and polished her little tin spoons.
When it was all beautifully neat and clean, she gave a party to five other little mice, without Mr. Jackson.
He smelt the party and came up the bank, but he could not squeeze in at the door.
So they handed him out acorn cupfuls of honeydew through the window, and he was not at all offended.
He sat outside in the sun, and said—"Tiddly, widdly, widdly! Your
very good health, Mrs. Tittlemouse!"
[For Many Unknown Little Friends, Including Monica]
Once upon a time there was a little fat comfortable grey squirrel, called Timmy Tiptoes. He had a nest thatched with leaves in the top of a tall tree; and he had a little squirrel wife called Goody.
Timmy Tiptoes sat out, enjoying the breeze; he whisked his tail and chuckled—"Little wife Goody, the nuts are ripe; we must lay up a store for winter and spring." Goody Tiptoes was busy pushing moss under the thatch—"The nest is so snug, we shall be sound asleep all winter." "Then we shall wake up all the thinner, when there is nothing to eat in spring- time," replied prudent Timothy.
When Timmy and Goody Tiptoes came to the nut thicket, they found other squirrels were there already.
Timmy took off his jacket and hung it on a twig; they worked away quietly by themselves.
Every day they made several journeys and picked quantities of nuts. They carried them away in bags, and stored them in several hollow stumps near the tree where they had built their nest.
When these stumps were full, they began to empty the bags into a hole high up a tree, that had belonged to a woodpecker; the nuts rattled down—down—down inside.
"How shall you ever get them out again? It is like a money box!" said Goody.
"I shall be much thinner before springtime, my love," said Timmy Tiptoes, peeping into the hole.
They did collect quantities— because they did not lose them! Squirrels who bury their nuts in the ground lose more than half, because they cannot remember the place.
The most forgetful squirrel in the wood was called Silvertail. He began to dig, and he could not remember. And then he dug again and found some nuts that did not belong to him; and there was a fight. And other squirrels began to dig,—the whole wood was in commotion!
Unfortunately, just at this time a flock of little birds flew by, from bush to bush, searching for green caterpillars and spiders. There were several sorts of little birds, twittering different songs.
The first one sang—"Who's bin digging-up MY nuts? Who's-been- digging-up MY nuts?"
And another sang—"Little bita bread and-NO-cheese! Little bit-a- bread an'-NO-cheese!"
The squirrels followed and listened. The first little bird flew into the bush where Timmy and Goody Tiptoes were quietly tying up their bags, and it sang—"Who's-bin digging-up MY nuts? Who's been digging-up MY-nuts?"
Timmy Tiptoes went on with his work without replying; indeed, the little bird did not expect an answer. It was only singing its natural song, and it meant nothing at all.
But when the other squirrels heard that song, they rushed upon Timmy Tiptoes and cuffed and scratched him, and upset his bag of nuts. The innocent little bird which had caused all the mischief, flew away in a fright!
Timmy rolled over and over, and then turned tail and fled towards his nest, followed by a crowd of squirrels shouting— "Who's-been digging-up MY-nuts?"
They caught him and dragged him up the very same tree, where there was the little round hole, and they pushed him in. The hole was much too small for Timmy Tiptoes' figure. They squeezed him dreadfully, it was a wonder they did not break his ribs. "We will leave him here till he confesses," said Silvertail Squirrel and he shouted into the hole—"Who's- been-digging-up MY-nuts?"
Timmy Tiptoes made no reply; he had tumbled down inside the tree, upon half a peck of nuts belonging to himself. He lay quite stunned and still.
Goody Tiptoes picked up the nut bags and went home. She made a cup of tea for Timmy; but he didn't come and didn't come.
Goody Tiptoes passed a lonely and unhappy night. Next morning she ventured back to the nut bushes to look for him; but the other unkind squirrels drove her away.
She wandered all over the wood, calling—
"Timmy Tiptoes! Timmy Tip- toes! Oh, where is Timmy Tiptoes?"
In the meantime Timmy Tiptoes came to his senses. He found himself tucked up in a little moss bed, very much in the dark, feeling sore; it seemed to be under ground. Timmy coughed and groaned, because his ribs hurted him. There was a chirpy noise, and a small striped Chipmunk appeared with a night light, and hoped he felt better?
It was most kind to Timmy Tiptoes; it lent him its nightcap; and the house was full of provisions.
The Chipmunk explained that it had rained nuts through the top of the tree—"Besides, I found a few buried!" It laughed and chuckled when it heard Timmy's story. While Timmy was confined to bed, it 'ticed him to eat quantities —"But how shall I ever get out through that hole unless I thin myself? My wife will be anxious!" "Just another nut—or two nuts; let me crack them for you," said the Chipmunk. Timmy Tiptoes grew fatter and fatter!
Now Goody Tiptoes had set to work again by herself. She did not put any more nuts into the woodpecker's hole, because she had always doubted how they could be got out again. She hid them under a tree root; they rattled down, down, down. Once when Goody emptied an extra big bagful, there was a decided squeak; and next time Goody brought another bagful, a little striped Chipmunk scrambled out in a hurry.
"It is getting perfectly full-up downstairs; the sitting room is full, and they are rolling along the passage; and my husband, Chippy Hackee, has run away and left me. What is the explanation of these showers of nuts?"
"I am sure I beg your pardon; I did not know that anybody lived here," said Mrs. Goody Tiptoes; "but where is Chippy Hackee? My husband, Timmy Tiptoes, has run away too." "I know where Chippy is; a little bird told me," said Mrs. Chippy Hackee.
She led the way to the woodpecker's tree, and they listened at the hole.
Down below there was a noise of nutcrackers, and a fat squirrel voice and a thin squirrel voice were singing together—
"My little old man and I fell out,
How shall we bring this matter about?
Bring it about as well as you can,
And get you gone, you little old man!"
"You could squeeze in, through that little round hole," said Goody Tiptoes. "Yes, I could," said the Chipmunk, "but my husband, Chippy Hackee, bites!"
Down below there was a noise of cracking nuts and nibbling; and then the fat squirrel voice and the thin squirrel voice sang—
"For the diddlum day
Day diddle durn di!
Day diddle diddle dum day!"
Then Goody peeped in at the hole, and called down—"Timmy Tiptoes! Oh fie, Timmy Tiptoes!" And Timmy replied, "Is that you, Goody Tiptoes? Why, certainly!"
He came up and kissed Goody through the hole; but he was so fat that he could not get out.
Chippy Hackee was not too fat, but he did not want to come; he stayed down below and chuckled.
And so it went on for a fort- night; till a big wind blew off the top of the tree, and opened up the hole and let in the rain.
Then Timmy Tiptoes came out, and went home with an umbrella.
But Chippy Hackee continued to camp out for another week, although it was uncomfortable.
At last a large bear came walking through the wood. Perhaps he also was looking for nuts; he seemed to be sniffing around.
Chippy Hackee went home in a hurry!
And when Chippy Hackee got home, he found he had caught a cold in his head; and he was more uncomfortable still.
And now Timmy and Goody Tiptoes keep their nut store fastened up with a little padlock.
And whenever that little bird sees the Chipmunks, he
sings—"Who's-been-digging- up MY-nuts? Who's been dig- ging-up
MY-nuts?" But nobody ever answers!
[For William Francis of Ulva—Someday!]
I have made many books about well-behaved people. Now, for a change, I am going to make a story about two disagreeable people, called Tommy Brock and Mr. Tod.
Nobody could call Mr. Tod "nice." The rabbits could not bear him; they could smell him half a mile off. He was of a wandering habit and he had foxy whiskers; they never knew where he would be next.
One day he was living in a stick- house in the coppice [grove], causing terror to the family of old Mr. Benjamin Bouncer. Next day he moved into a pollard willow near the lake, frightening the wild ducks and the water rats.
In winter and early spring he might generally be found in an earth amongst the rocks at the top of Bull Banks, under Oatmeal Crag.
He had half a dozen houses, but he was seldom at home.
The houses were not always empty when Mr. Tod moved OUT; because sometimes Tommy Brock moved IN; (without asking leave).
Tommy Brock was a short bristly fat waddling person with a grin; he grinned all over his face. He was not nice in his habits. He ate wasp nests and frogs and worms; and he waddled about by moonlight, digging things up.
His clothes were very dirty; and as he slept in the daytime, he always went to bed in his boots. And the bed which he went to bed in was generally Mr. Tod's.
Now Tommy Brock did occasionally eat rabbit pie; but it was only very little young ones occasionally, when other food was really scarce. He was friendly with old Mr. Bouncer; they agreed in disliking the wicked otters and Mr. Tod; they often talked over that painful subject.
Old Mr. Bouncer was stricken in years. He sat in the spring sunshine outside the burrow, in a muffler; smoking a pipe of rabbit tobacco.
He lived with his son Benjamin Bunny and his daughter-in-law Flopsy, who had a young family. Old Mr. Bouncer was in charge of the family that afternoon, because Benjamin and Flopsy had gone out.
The little rabbit babies were just old enough to open their blue eyes and kick. They lay in a fluffy bed of rabbit wool and hay, in a shallow burrow, separate from the main rabbit hole. To tell the truth—old Mr. Bouncer had forgotten them.
He sat in the sun, and conversed cordially with Tommy Brock, who was passing through the wood with a sack and a little spud which he used for digging, and some mole traps. He complained bitterly about the scarcity of pheasants' eggs, and accused Mr. Tod of poaching them. And the otters had cleared off all the frogs while he was asleep in winter—"I have not had a good square meal for a fort- night, I am living on pig-nuts. I shall have to turn vegetarian and eat my own tail!" said Tommy Brock.
It was not much of a joke, but it tickled old Mr. Bouncer; because Tommy Brock was so fat and stumpy and grinning.
So old Mr. Bouncer laughed; and pressed Tommy Brock to come inside, to taste a slice of seed cake and "a glass of my daughter Flopsy's cowslip wine." Tommy Brock squeezed himself into the rabbit hole with alacrity.
Then old Mr. Bouncer smoked another pipe, and gave Tommy Brock a cabbage leaf cigar which was so very strong that it made Tommy Brock grin more than ever; and the smoke filled the burrow. Old Mr. Bouncer coughed and laughed; and Tommy Brock puffed and grinned.
And Mr. Bouncer laughed and coughed, and shut his eyes because of the cabbage smoke ..........
When Flopsy and Benjamin came back old Mr. Bouncer woke up. Tommy Brock and all the young rabbit babies had disappeared!
Mr. Bouncer would not confess that he had admitted anybody into the rabbit hole. But the smell of badger was undeniable; and there were round heavy footmarks in the sand. He was in disgrace; Flopsy wrung her ears, and slapped him.
Benjamin Bunny set off at once after Tommy Brock.
There was not much difficulty in tracking him; he had left his foot- mark and gone slowly up the winding footpath through the wood. Here he had rooted up the moss and wood sorrel. There he had dug quite a deep hole for dog darnel; and had set a mole trap. A little stream crossed the way. Benjamin skipped lightly over dry-foot; the badger's heavy steps showed plainly in the mud.
The path led to a part of the thicket where the trees had been cleared; there were leafy oak stumps, and a sea of blue hyacinths —but the smell that made Benjamin stop was NOT the smell of flowers!
Mr. Tod's stick house was before him; and, for once, Mr. Tod was at home. There was not only a foxy flavour in proof of it—there was smoke coming out of the broken pail that served as a chimney.
Benjamin Bunny sat up, staring, his whiskers twitched. Inside the stick house somebody dropped a plate, and said something. Benjamin stamped his foot, and bolted.
He never stopped till he came to the other side of the wood. Apparently Tommy Brock had turned the same way. Upon the top of the wall there were again the marks of
badger; and some ravellings of a sack had caught on a briar.
Benjamin climbed over the wall, into a meadow. He found another mole trap newly set; he was still upon the track of Tommy Brock. It was getting late in the afternoon. Other rabbits were coming out to enjoy the evening air. One of them in a blue coat, by himself, was busily hunting for dandelions.— "Cousin Peter! Peter Rabbit, Peter Rabbit!" shouted Benjamin Bunny.
The blue coated rabbit sat up with pricked ears—"Whatever is the matter, Cousin Benjamin? Is it a cat? or John Stoat Ferret?"
"No, no, no! He's bagged my family—Tommy Brock—in a sack —have you seen him?"
"Tommy Brock? how many, Cousin Benjamin?"
"Seven, Cousin Peter, and all of them twins! Did he come this way? Please tell me quick!"
"Yes, yes; not ten minutes since ... he said they were CATERPILLARS; I did think they were kicking rather hard, for caterpillars."
"Which way? which way has he gone, Cousin Peter?"
"He had a sack with something live in it; I watched him set a mole trap. Let me use my mind, Cousin Benjamin; tell me from the beginning," Benjamin did so.
"My Uncle Bouncer has displayed a lamentable want of discretion for his years;" said Peter reflectively, "but there are two hopeful circumstances. Your family is alive and kicking; and Tommy Brock has had refreshments. He will probably go to sleep, and keep them for breakfast." "Which way?" "Cousin Benjamin, compose yourself. I know very well which way. Because Mr. Tod was at home in the stick house he has gone to Mr. Tod's other house, at the top of Bull Banks. I partly know, because he offered to leave any message at Sister Cottontail's; he said he would be passing." (Cottontail had married a black rabbit, and gone to live on the hill.)
Peter hid his dandelions, and accompanied the afflicted parent, who was all of atwitter. They crossed several fields and began to climb the hill; the tracks of Tommy Brock were plainly to be seen. He seemed to have put down the sack every dozen yards, to rest.
"He must be very puffed; we are close behind him, by the scent. What a nasty person!" said Peter.
The sunshine was still warm and slanting on the hill pastures. Half way up, Cottontail was sitting in her doorway, with four or five half- grown little rabbits playing about her; one black and the others brown.
Cottontail had seen Tommy Brock passing in the distance. Asked whether her husband was at home she replied that Tommy Brock had rested twice while she watched him.
He had nodded, and pointed to the sack, and seemed doubled up with laughing.—"Come away, Peter; he will be cooking them; come quicker!" said Benjamin Bunny.
They climbed up and up;—"He was at home; I saw his black ears peeping out of the hole." "They live too near the rocks to quarrel with their neighbors. Come on, Cousin Benjamin!"
When they came near the wood at the top of Bull Banks, they went cautiously. The trees grew amongst heaped up rocks; and there, beneath a crag, Mr. Tod had made one of his homes. It was at the top of a steep bank; the rocks and bushes overhung it. The rabbits crept up carefully, listening and peeping.
This house was something between a cave, a prison, and a tumbledown pigsty. There was a strong door, which was shut and locked.
The setting sun made the window panes glow like red flame; but the kitchen fire was not alight. It was neatly laid with dry sticks, as the rabbits could see, when they peeped through the window.
Benjamin sighed with relief.
But there were preparations upon the kitchen table which made him shudder. There was an immense empty pie dish of blue willow pattern, and a large carving knife and fork, and a chopper.
At the other end of the table was a partly unfolded tablecloth, a plate, a tumbler, a knife and fork, salt cellar, mustard and a chair— in short, preparations for one person's supper.
No person was to be seen, and no young rabbits. The kitchen was empty and silent; the clock had run down. Peter and Benjamin flattened their noses against the window, and stared into the dusk.
Then they scrambled round the rocks to the other side of the house. It was damp and smelly, and over- grown with thorns and briars.
The rabbits shivered in their shoes.
"Oh my poor rabbit babies! What a dreadful place; I shall never see them again!" sighed Benjamin.
They crept up to the bedroom window. It was closed and bolted like the kitchen. But there were signs that this window had been recently open; the cobwebs were disturbed, and there were fresh dirty footmarks upon the windowsill.
The room inside was so dark that at first they could make out nothing; but they could hear a noise—a slow deep regular snoring grunt. And as their eyes became accustomed to the darkness, they perceived that somebody was asleep on Mr. Tod's bed, curled up under the blanket.—"He has gone to bed in his boots," whispered Peter.
Benjamin, who was all of atwitter, pulled Peter off the windowsill.
Tommy Brock's snores continued, grunty and regular from Mr. Tod's bed. Nothing could be seen of the young family.
The sun had set; an owl began to hoot in the wood. There were many unpleasant things lying about that had much better have been buried; rabbit bones and skulls, and chickens' legs and other horrors. It was a shocking place, and very dark.
They went back to the front of the house, and tried in every way to move the bolt of the kitchen window. They tried to push up a rusty nail between the window sashes; but it was of no use, especially without a light.
They sat side by side outside the window, whispering and listening.
In half an hour the moon rose over the wood. It shone full and clear and cold, upon the house, amongst the rocks, and in at the kitchen window. But alas, no little rabbit babies were to be seen! The moonbeams twinkled on the carving knife and the pie dish, and made a path of brightness across the dirty floor.
The light showed a little door in a wall beside the kitchen fireplace —a little iron door belonging to a brick oven of that old-fashioned sort that used to be heated with faggots of wood.
And presently at the same moment Peter and Benjamin noticed that whenever they shook the window the little door opposite shook in answer. The young family were alive; shut up in the oven!
Benjamin was so excited that it was a mercy he did not awake Tommy Brock, whose snores continued solemnly in Mr. Tod's bed.
But there really was not very much comfort in the discovery. They could not open the window; and although the young family was alive the little rabbits were quite incapable of letting themselves out; they were not old enough to crawl.
After much whispering, Peter and Benjamin decided to dig a tunnel. They began to burrow a yard or two lower down the bank. They hoped that they might be able to work between the large stones under the house; the kitchen floor was so dirty that it was impossible to say whether it was made of earth or flags.
They dug and dug for hours. They could not tunnel straight on account of stones; but by the end of the night they were under the kitchen floor. Benjamin was on his back scratching upwards. Peter's claws were worn down; he was outside the tunnel, shuffling sand away. He called out that it was morning—sunrise; and that the jays were making a noise down below in the woods.
Benjamin Bunny came out of the dark tunnel shaking the sand from his ears; he cleaned his face with his paws. Every minute the sun shone warmer on the top of the hill. In the valley there was a sea of white mist, with golden tops of trees showing through.
Again from the fields down below in the mist there came the angry cry of a jay, followed by the sharp yelping bark of a fox!
Then those two rabbits lost their heads completely. They did the most foolish thing that they could have done. They rushed into their short new tunnel, and hid themselves at the top end of it, under Mr. Tod's kitchen floor.
Mr. Tod was coming up Bull Banks, and he was in the very worst of tempers. First he had been upset by breaking the plate. It was his own fault; but it was a china plate, the last of the dinner service that had belonged to his grandmother, old Vixen Tod. Then the midges had been very bad. And he had failed to catch a hen pheasant on her nest; and it had contained only five eggs, two of them addled. Mr. Tod had had an unsatisfactory night.
As usual, when out of humour, he determined to move house. First he tried the pollard willow, but it was damp; and the otters had left a dead fish near it. Mr. Tod likes nobody's leavings but his own.
He made his way up the hill; his temper was not improved by noticing unmistakable marks of badger. No one else grubs up the moss so wantonly as Tommy Brock.
Mr. Tod slapped his stick upon the earth and fumed; he guessed where Tommy Brock had gone to. He was further annoyed by the jay bird which followed him persistently. It flew from tree to tree and scolded, warning every rabbit within hearing that either a cat or a fox was coming up the plantation. Once when it flew screaming over his head Mr. Tod snapped at it, and barked.
He approached his house very carefully, with a large rusty key. He sniffed and his whiskers bristled.
The house was locked up, but Mr. Tod had his doubts whether it was empty. He turned the rusty key in the lock; the rabbits below could hear it. Mr. Tod opened the door cautiously and went in.
The sight that met Mr. Tod's eyes in Mr. Tod's kitchen made Mr. Tod furious. There was Mr. Tod's chair, and Mr. Tod's pie dish, and his knife and fork and mustard and salt cellar, and his tablecloth, that he had left folded up in the dresser —all set out for supper (or breakfast) —without doubt for that odious Tommy Brock.
There was a smell of fresh earth and dirty badger, which fortunately overpowered all smell of rabbit.
But what absorbed Mr. Tod's attention was a noise, a deep slow regular snoring grunting noise, coming from his own bed.
He peeped through the hinges of the half-open bedroom door. Then he turned and came out of the house in a hurry. His whiskers bristled and his coat collar stood on end with rage.
For the next twenty minutes Mr. Tod kept creeping cautiously into the house, and retreating hurriedly out again. By degrees he ventured further in—right into the bed- room. When he was outside the house, he scratched up the earth with fury. But when he was inside —he did not like the look of Tommy Brock's teeth.
He was lying on his back with his mouth open, grinning from ear to ear. He snored peacefully and regularly; but one eye was not perfectly shut.
Mr. Tod came in and out of the bedroom. Twice he brought in his walking stick, and once he brought in the coal scuttle. But he thought better of it, and took them away.
When he came back after removing the coal scuttle, Tommy Brock was lying a little more sideways; but he seemed even sounder asleep. He was an incurably indolent person; he was not in the least afraid of Mr. Tod; he was simply too lazy and comfortable to move.
Mr. Tod came back yet again into the bedroom with a clothes line. He stood a minute watching Tommy Brock and listening attentively to the snores. They were very loud indeed, but seemed quite natural.
Mr. Tod turned his back towards the bed, and undid the window. It creaked; he turned round with a jump. Tommy Brock, who had opened one eye—shut it hastily. The snores continued.
Mr. Tod's proceedings were peculiar, and rather difficult (because the bed was between the window and the door of the bedroom). He opened the window a little way, and pushed out the greater part of the clothes line on to the window- sill. The rest of the line, with a hook at the end, remained in his hand.
Tommy Brock snored conscientiously. Mr. Tod stood and looked at him for a minute; then he left the room again.
Tommy Brock opened both eyes, and looked at the rope and grinned. There was a noise outside the window. Tommy Brock shut his eyes in a hurry.
Mr. Tod had gone out at the front door, and round to the back of the house. On the way, he stumbled over the rabbit burrow. If he had had any idea who was inside it he would have pulled them out quickly.
His foot went through the tunnel nearly upon the top of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin; but, fortunately, he thought that it was some more of Tommy Brock's work.
He took up the coil of line from the sill, listened for a moment, and then tied the rope to a tree.
Tommy Brock watched him with one eye, through the window. He was puzzled.
Mr. Tod fetched a large heavy pailful of water from the spring, and staggered with it through the kitchen into his bedroom.
Tommy Brock snored industriously, with rather a snort.
Mr. Tod put down the pail beside the bed, took up the end of rope with the hook—hesitated, and looked at Tommy Brock. The snores were almost apoplectic; but the grin was not quite so big.
Mr. Tod gingerly mounted a chair by the head of the bedstead. His legs were dangerously near to Tommy Brock's teeth.
He reached up and put the end of rope, with the hook, over the head of the tester bed, where the curtains ought to hang.
(Mr. Tod's curtains were folded up, and put away, owing to the house being unoccupied. So was the counterpane. Tommy Brock was covered with a blanket only.) Mr. Tod standing on the unsteady chair looked down upon him attentively; he really was a first prize sound sleeper!
It seemed as though nothing would waken him—not even the flapping rope across the bed.
Mr. Tod descended safely from the chair, and endeavoured to get up again with the pail of water. He intended to hang it from the hook, dangling over the head of Tommy Brock, in order to make a sort of shower-bath, worked by a string, through the window.
But, naturally, being a thin- legged person (though vindictive and sandy whiskered)—he was quite unable to lift the heavy weight to the level of the hook and rope. He very nearly overbalanced himself.
The snores became more and more apoplectic. One of Tommy Brock's hind legs twitched under the blanket, but still he slept on peacefully.
Mr. Tod and the pail descended from the chair without accident. After considerable thought, he emptied the water into a wash basin and jug. The empty pail was not too heavy for him; he slung it up wobbling over the head of Tommy Brock.
Surely there never was such a sleeper! Mr. Tod got up and down, down and up on the chair.
As he could not lift the whole pailful of water at once he fetched a milk jug and ladled quarts of water into the pail by degrees. The pail got fuller and fuller, and swung like a pendulum. Occasionally a drop splashed over; but still Tommy Brock snored regularly and never moved,—except in one eye.
At last Mr. Tod's preparations were complete. The pail was full of water; the rope was tightly strained over the top of the bed, and across the windowsill to the tree outside.
"It will make a great mess in my bedroom; but I could never sleep in that bed again without a spring cleaning of some sort," said Mr. Tod.
Mr. Tod took a last look at the badger and softly left the room. He went out of the house, shutting the front door. The rabbits heard his footsteps over the tunnel.
He ran round behind the house, intending to undo the rope in order to let fall the pailful of water upon Tommy Brock—
"I will wake him up with an unpleasant surprise," said Mr. Tod.
The moment he had gone, Tommy Brock got up in a hurry; he rolled Mr. Tod's dressing-gown into a bundle, put it into the bed beneath the pail of water instead of himself, and left the room also— grinning immensely.
He went into the kitchen, lighted the fire and boiled the kettle; for the moment he did not trouble himself to cook the baby rabbits.
When Mr. Tod got to the tree, he found that the weight and strain had dragged the knot so tight that it was past untying. He was obliged to gnaw it with his teeth. He chewed and gnawed for more than twenty minutes. At last the rope gave way with such a sudden jerk that it nearly pulled his teeth out, and quite knocked him over backwards.
Inside the house there was a great crash and splash, and the noise of a pail rolling over and over.
But no screams. Mr. Tod was mystified; he sat quite still, and listened attentively. Then he peeped in at the window. The water was dripping from the bed, the pail had rolled into a corner.
In the middle of the bed, under the blanket, was a wet SOMETHING —much flattened in the middle, where the pail had caught it (as it were across the tummy). Its head was covered by the wet blanket, and it was NOT SNORING ANY LONGER.
There was nothing stirring, and no sound except the drip, drop, drop, drip, of water trickling from the mattress.
Mr. Tod watched it for half an hour; his eyes glistened.
Then he cut a caper, and became so bold that he even tapped at the window; but the bundle never moved.
Yes—there was no doubt about it—it had turned out even better than he had planned; the pail had hit poor old Tommy Brock, and killed him dead!
"I will bury that nasty person in the hole which he has dug. I will bring my bedding out, and dry it in the sun," said Mr. Tod.
"I will wash the tablecloth and spread it on the grass in the sun to bleach. And the blanket must be hung up in the wind; and the bed must be thoroughly disinfected, and aired with a warming-pan; and warmed with a hot water bottle."
"I will get soft soap, and monkey soap, and all sorts of soap; and soda and scrubbing brushes; and persian powder; and carbolic to remove the smell. I must have a disinfecting. Perhaps I may have to burn sulphur."
He hurried round the house to get a shovel from the kitchen— "First I will arrange the hole—then I will drag out that person in the blanket. . . ."
He opened the door. . . .
Tommy Brock was sitting at Mr. Tod's kitchen table, pouring out tea from Mr. Tod's teapot into Mr. Tod's teacup. He was quite dry himself and grinning; and he threw the cup of scalding tea all over Mr. Tod.
Then Mr. Tod rushed upon Tommy Brock, and Tommy Brock grappled with Mr. Tod amongst the broken crockery, and there was a terrific battle all over the kitchen. To the rabbits underneath it sounded as if the floor would give way at each crash of falling furniture.
They crept out of their tunnel, and hung about amongst the rocks and bushes, listening anxiously.
Inside the house the racket was fearful. The rabbit babies in the oven woke up trembling; perhaps it was fortunate they were shut up inside.
Everything was upset except the kitchen table.
And everything was broken, except the mantelpiece and the kitchen fender. The crockery was smashed to atoms.
The chairs were broken, and the window, and the clock fell with a crash, and there were handfuls of Mr. Tod's sandy whiskers.
The vases fell off the mantelpiece, the canisters fell off the shelf; the kettle fell off the hob. Tommy Brock put his foot in a jar of raspberry jam.
And the boiling water out of the kettle fell upon the tail of Mr. Tod.
When the kettle fell, Tommy Brock, who was still grinning, happened to be uppermost; and he rolled Mr. Tod over and over like a log, out at the door.
Then the snarling and worrying went on outside; and they rolled over the bank, and down hill, bumping over the rocks. There will never be any love lost between Tommy Brock and Mr. Tod.
As soon as the coast was clear, Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny came out of the bushes.
"Now for it! Run in, Cousin Benjamin! Run in and get them! while I watch the door."
But Benjamin was frightened—
"Oh; oh! they are coming back!"
"No they are not."
"Yes they are!"
"What dreadful bad language! I think they have fallen down the stone quarry."
Still Benjamin hesitated, and Peter kept pushing him—
"Be quick, it's all right. Shut the oven door, Cousin Benjamin, so that he won't miss them."
Decidedly there were lively doings in Mr. Tod's kitchen!
At home in the rabbit hole, things had not been quite comfortable.
After quarrelling at supper, Flopsy and old Mr. Bouncer had passed a sleepless night, and quarrelled again at breakfast. Old Mr. Bouncer could no longer deny that he had invited company into the rabbit hole; but he refused to reply to the questions and reproaches of Flopsy. The day passed heavily.
Old Mr. Bouncer, very sulky, was huddled up in a corner, barricaded with a chair. Flopsy had taken away his pipe and hidden the tobacco. She had been having a complete turn out and spring cleaning, to relieve her feelings. She had just finished. Old Mr. Bouncer, behind his chair, was wondering anxiously what she would do next.
In Mr. Tod's kitchen, amidst the wreckage, Benjamin Bunny picked his way to the oven nervously, through a thick cloud of dust. He opened the oven door, felt inside, and found something warm and wriggling. He lifted it out carefully, and rejoined Peter Rabbit.
"I've got them! Can we get away? Shall we hide, Cousin Peter?"
Peter pricked his ears; distant sounds of fighting still echoed in the wood.
Five minutes afterwards two breathless rabbits came scuttering away down Bull Banks, half carrying, half dragging a sack between them, bumpetty bump over the grass. They reached home safely, and burst into the rabbit hole.
Great was old Mr. Bouncer's relief and Flopsy's joy when Peter and Benjamin arrived in triumph with the young family. The rabbit babies were rather tumbled and very hungry; they were fed and put to bed. They soon recovered.
A new long pipe and a fresh supply of rabbit tobacco was presented to Mr. Bouncer. He was rather upon his dignity; but he accepted.
Old Mr. Bouncer was forgiven, and they all had dinner. Then Peter
and Benjamin told their story—but they had not waited long enough to
be able to tell the end of the battle between Tommy Brock and Mr.
[For Cicily and Charlie, a Tale of the Christmas Pig]
Once upon a time there was an old pig called Aunt Pettitoes. She had eight of a family: four little girl pigs, called Cross-patch, Suck-suck, Yock-yock and Spot; and four little boy pigs, called Alexander, Pigling Bland, Chin-Chin and Stumpy. Stumpy had had an accident to his tail.
The eight little pigs had very fine appetites—"Yus, yus, yus! they eat and indeed they DO eat!" said Aunt Pettitoes, looking at her family with pride. Suddenly there were fearful squeals; Alexander had squeezed inside the hoops of the pig trough and stuck.
Aunt Pettitoes and I dragged him out by the hind legs.
Chin-chin was already in disgrace; it was washing day, and he had eaten a piece of soap. And presently in a basket of clean clothes, we found another dirty little pig—"Tchut, tut, tut! whichever is this?" grunted Aunt Pettitoes. Now all the pig family are pink, or pink with black spots, but this pig child was smutty black all over; when it had been popped into a tub, it proved to be Yock-yock.
I went into the garden; there I found Cross-patch and Suck-suck rooting up carrots. I whipped them myself and led them out by the ears. Cross-patch tried to bite me.
"Aunt Pettitoes, Aunt Pettitoes! you are a worthy person, but your family is not well brought up. Every one of them has been in mischief except Spot and Pigling Bland."
"Yus, yus!" sighed Aunt Pettitoes. "And they drink bucketfuls of milk; I shall have to get another cow! Good little Spot shall stay at home to do the housework; but the others must go. Four little boy pigs and four little girl pigs are too many altogether." "Yus, yus, yus," said Aunt Pettitoes, "there will be more to eat without them."
So Chin-chin and Suck-suck went away in a wheel-barrow, and Stumpy, Yock-yock and Cross- patch rode away in a cart.
And the other two little boy pigs, Pigling Bland and Alexander went to market. We brushed their coats, we curled their tails and washed their little faces, and wished them good bye in the yard.
Aunt Pettitoes wiped her eyes with a large pocket handkerchief, then she wiped Pigling Bland's nose and shed tears; then she wiped Alexander's nose and shed tears; then she passed the handkerchief to Spot. Aunt Pettitoes sighed and grunted, and addressed those little pigs as follows—
"Now Pigling Bland, son Pigling Bland, you must go to market. Take your brother Alexander by the hand. Mind your Sunday clothes, and remember to blow your nose" —(Aunt Pettitoes passed round the handkerchief again)—"beware of traps, hen roosts, bacon and eggs; always walk upon your hind legs." Pigling Bland who was a sedate little pig, looked solemnly at his mother, a tear trickled down his cheek.
Aunt Pettitoes turned to the other—"Now son Alexander take the hand"—"Wee, wee, wee!" giggled Alexander—"take the hand of your brother Pigling Bland, you must go to market. Mind—" "Wee, wee, wee!" interrupted Alexander again. "You put me out," said Aunt Pettitoes—"Observe signposts and milestones; do not gobble herring bones—" "And remember," said I impressively, "if you once cross the county boundary you cannot come back. Alexander, you are not attending. Here are two licenses permitting two pigs to go to market in Lancashire. Attend Alexander. I have had no end of trouble in getting these papers from the policeman." Pigling Bland listened gravely; Alexander was hopelessly volatile.
I pinned the papers, for safety, inside their waistcoat pockets; Aunt Pettitoes gave to each a little bundle, and eight conversation peppermints with appropriate moral sentiments in screws of paper. Then they started.
Pigling Bland and Alexander trotted along steadily for a mile; at least Pigling Bland did. Alexander made the road half as long again by skipping from side to side. He danced about and pinched his brother, singing—
"This pig went to market, this pig stayed
"This pig had a bit of meat—
let's see what they have given US for dinner, Pigling?"
Pigling Bland and Alexander sat down and untied their bundles. Alexander gobbled up his dinner in no time; he had already eaten all his own peppermints—"Give me one of yours, please, Pigling?" "But I wish to preserve them for emergencies," said Pigling Bland doubtfully. Alexander went into squeals of laughter. Then he pricked Pigling with the pin that had fastened his pig paper; and when Pigling slapped him he dropped the pin, and tried to take Pigling's pin, and the papers got mixed up. Pigling Bland reproved Alexander.
But presently they made it up again, and trotted away together, singing—
"Tom, Tom the piper's son, stole a pig
and away he ran!
"But all the tune that he could play, was
`Over the hills and far away!'"
"What's that, young Sirs? Stole a pig? Where are your licenses?" said the policeman. They had nearly run against him round a corner. Pigling Bland pulled out his paper; Alexander, after fumbling, handed over something scrumply—
"To 2 1/2 oz. conversation sweeties at three farthings"—"What's this? this ain't a license?" Alexander's nose lengthened visibly, he had lost it. "I had one, indeed I had, Mr. Policeman!"
"It's not likely they let you start without. I am passing the farm. You may walk with me." "Can I come back too?" inquired Pigling Bland. "I see no reason, young Sir; your paper is all right." Pigling Bland did not like going on alone, and it was beginning to rain. But it is unwise to argue with the police; he gave his brother a peppermint, and watched him out of sight.
To conclude the adventures of Alexander—the policeman sauntered up to the house about tea time, followed by a damp subdued little pig. I disposed of Alexander in the neighbourhood; he did fairly well when he had settled down.
Pigling Bland went on alone dejectedly; he came to cross roads and a sign-post—"To Market-town 5 miles," "Over the Hills, 4 miles," "To Pettitoes Farm, 3 miles."
Pigling Bland was shocked, there was little hope of sleeping in Market Town, and tomorrow was the hiring fair; it was deplorable to think how much time had been wasted by the frivolity of Alexander.
He glanced wistfully along the road towards the hills, and then set off walking obediently the other way, buttoning up his coat against the rain. He had never wanted to go; and the idea of standing all by himself in a crowded market, to be stared at, pushed, and hired by some big strange farmer was very disagreeable—
"I wish I could have a little garden and grow potatoes," said Pigling Bland.
He put his cold hand in his pocket and felt his paper, he put his other hand in his other pocket and felt another paper—Alexander's! Pigling squealed; then ran back frantically, hoping to overtake Alexander and the policeman.
He took a wrong turn—several wrong turns, and was quite lost.
It grew dark, the wind whistled, the trees creaked and groaned.
Pigling Bland became frightened and cried "Wee, wee, wee! I can't find my way home!"
After an hour's wandering he got out of the wood; the moon shone through the clouds, and Pigling Bland saw a country that was new to him.
The road crossed a moor; below was a wide valley with a river twinkling in the moonlight, and beyond —in misty distance—lay the hills.
He saw a small wooden hut, made his way to it, and crept inside —"I am afraid it IS a hen house, but what can I do?" said Pigling Bland, wet and cold and quite tired out.
"Bacon and eggs, bacon and eggs!" clucked a hen on a perch.
"Trap, trap, trap! cackle, cackle, cackle!" scolded the disturbed cockerel. "To market, to market! jiggettyjig!" clucked a broody white hen roosting next to him. Pigling Bland, much alarmed, determined to leave at daybreak. In the meantime, he and the hens fell asleep.
In less than an hour they were all awakened. The owner, Mr. Peter Thomas Piperson, came with a lantern and a hamper to catch six fowls to take to market in the morning.
He grabbed the white hen roosting next to the cock; then his eye fell upon Pigling Bland, squeezed up in a corner. He made a singular remark—"Hallo, here's another!" —seized Pigling by the scruff of the neck, and dropped him into the hamper. Then he dropped in five more dirty, kicking, cackling hens upon the top of Pigling Bland.
The hamper containing six fowls and a young pig was no light weight; it was taken down hill, unsteadily, with jerks. Pigling, although nearly scratched to pieces, contrived to hide the papers and peppermints inside his clothes.
At last the hamper was bumped down upon a kitchen floor, the lid was opened, and Pigling was lifted out. He looked up, blinking, and saw an offensively ugly elderly man, grinning from ear to ear.
"This one's come of himself, whatever," said Mr. Piperson, turning Pigling's pockets inside out. He pushed the hamper into a corner, threw a sack over it to keep the hens quiet, put a pot on the fire, and unlaced his boots.
Pigling Bland drew forward a coppy stool, and sat on the edge of it, shyly warming his hands. Mr. Piperson pulled off a boot and threw it against the wainscot at the further end of the kitchen. There was a smothered noise—"Shut up!" said Mr. Piperson. Pigling Bland warmed his hands, and eyed him.
Mr. Piperson pulled off the other boot and flung it after the first, there was again a curious noise— "Be quiet, will ye?" said Mr. Piperson. Pigling Bland sat on the very edge of the coppy stool.
Mr. Piperson fetched meal from a chest and made porridge, it seemed to Pigling that something at the further end of the kitchen was taking a suppressed interest in the cooking; but he was too hungry to be troubled by noises.
Mr. Piperson poured out three platefuls: for himself, for Pigling, and a third-after glaring at Pigling— he put away with much scuffling, and locked up. Pigling Bland ate his supper discreetly.
After supper Mr. Piperson consulted an almanac, and felt Pigling's ribs; it was too late in the season for curing bacon, and he grudged his meal. Besides, the hens had seen this pig.
He looked at the small remains of a flitch [side of bacon], and then looked undecidedly at Pigling. "You may sleep on the rug," said Mr. Peter Thomas Piperson.
Pigling Bland slept like a top. In the morning Mr. Piperson made more porridge; the weather was warmer. He looked how much meal was left in the chest, and seemed dissatisfied—"You'll likely be moving on again?" said he to Pigling Bland.
Before Pigling could reply, a neighbour, who was giving Mr. Piperson and the hens a lift, whistled from the gate. Mr. Piperson hurried out with the hamper, enjoining Pigling to shut the door behind him and not meddle with nought; or "I'll come back and skin ye!" said Mr. Piperson.
It crossed Pigling's mind that if HE had asked for a lift, too, he might still have been in time for market.
But he distrusted Peter Thomas.
After finishing breakfast at his leisure, Pigling had a look round the cottage; everything was locked up. He found some potato peelings in a bucket in the back kitchen. Pigling ate the peel, and washed up the porridge plates in the bucket. He sang while he worked—
"Tom with his pipe made such a noise,
He called up all the girls and boys—
"And they all ran to hear him play,
"Over the hills and far away!—"
Suddenly a little smothered voice chimed in—
"Over the hills and a great way off,
The wind shall blow my top knot
Pigling Bland put down a plate which he was wiping, and listened.
After a long pause, Pigling went on tiptoe and peeped round the door into the front kitchen; there was nobody there.
After another pause, Pigling approached the door of the locked cupboard, and snuffed at the keyhole. It was quite quiet.
After another long pause, Pigling pushed a peppermint under the door. It was sucked in immediately.
In the course of the day Pigling pushed in all his remaining six peppermints.
When Mr. Piperson returned, he found Pigling sitting before the fire; he had brushed up the hearth and put on the pot to boil; the meal was not get-at-able.
Mr. Piperson was very affable; he slapped Pigling on the back, made lots of porridge and forgot to lock the meal chest. He did lock the cupboard door; but without properly shutting it. He went to bed early, and told Pigling upon no account to disturb him next day before twelve o'clock.
Pigling Bland sat by the fire, eating his supper.
All at once at his elbow, a little voice spoke—"My name is Pig-wig. Make me more porridge, please!" Pigling Bland jumped, and looked round.
A perfectly lovely little black Berkshire pig stood smiling beside him. She had twinkly little screwed up eyes, a double chin, and a short turned up nose.
She pointed at Pigling's plate; he hastily gave it to her, and fled to the meal chest—"How did you come here?" asked Pigling Bland.
"Stolen," replied Pig-wig, with her mouth full. Pigling helped himself to meal without scruple. "What for?" "Bacon, hams," replied Pig- wig cheerfully. "Why on earth don't you run away?" exclaimed the horrified Pigling.
"I shall after supper," said Pig- wig decidedly.
Pigling Bland made more porridge and watched her shyly.
She finished a second plate, got up, and looked about her, as though she were going to start.
"You can't go in the dark," said Pigling Bland.
Pig-wig looked anxious.
"Do you know your way by day- light?"
"I know we can see this little white house from the hills across the river. Which way are you going, Mr. Pig?"
"To market—I have two pig papers. I might take you to the bridge; if you have no objection," said Pigling much confused and sitting on the edge of his coppy stool. Pig- wig's gratitude was such and she asked so many questions that it became embarrassing to Pigling Bland.
He was obliged to shut his eyes and pretend to sleep. She became quiet, and there was a smell of peppermint.
"I thought you had eaten them?" said Pigling, waking suddenly.
"Only the corners," replied Pig- wig, studying the sentiments with much interest by the firelight.
"I wish you wouldn't; he might smell them through the ceiling," said the alarmed Pigling.
Pig-wig put back the sticky peppermints into her pocket; "Sing something," she demanded.
"I am sorry. . . I have tooth- ache," said Pigling much dismayed.
"Then I will sing," replied Pig- wig, "You will not mind if I say iddy tidditty? I have forgotten some of the words."
Pigling Bland made no objection; he sat with his eyes half shut, and watched her.
She wagged her head and rocked about, clapping time and singing in a sweet little grunty voice—
"A funny old mother pig lived in a stye,
and three little piggies had she;
"(Ti idditty idditty) umph, umph,
umph! and the little pigs said wee,
She sang successfully through three or four verses, only at every verse her head nodded a little lower, and her little twinkly eyes closed up—
"Those three little piggies grew peaky
and lean, and lean they might very
"For somehow they couldn't say umph,
umph, umph! and they wouldn't
say wee, wee, wee!
"For somehow they couldn't say—
Pig-wig's head bobbed lower and lower, until she rolled over, a little round ball, fast asleep on the hearth-rug.
Pigling Bland, on tiptoe, covered her up with an antimacassar.
He was afraid to go to sleep himself; for the rest of the night he sat listening to the chirping of the crickets and to the snores of Mr. Piperson overhead.
Early in the morning, between dark and daylight, Pigling tied up his little bundle and woke up Pig- wig. She was excited and half- frightened. "But it's dark! How can we find our way?"
"The cock has crowed; we must start before the hens come out; they might shout to Mr. Piperson."
Pig-wig sat down again, and commenced to cry.
"Come away Pig-wig; we can see when we get used to it. Come! I can hear them clucking!"
Pigling had never said shuh! to a hen in his life, being peaceable; also he remembered the hamper.
He opened the house door quietly and shut it after them. There was
no garden; the neighbourhood of Mr. Piperson's was all scratched up
by fowls. They slipped away hand in hand across an untidy field to
"Tom, Tom the piper's son, stole a pig
and away he ran!
"But all the tune that he could play, was
`Over the hills and far away!'"
"Come Pig-wig, we must get to the bridge before folks are stirring."
"Why do you want to go to market, Pigling?" inquired Pig-wig.
The sun rose while they were crossing the moor, a dazzle of light over the tops of the hills. The sunshine crept down the slopes into the peaceful green valleys, where little white cottages nestled in gardens and orchards.
"That's Westmorland," said Pig- wig. She dropped Pigling's hand and commenced to dance, singing— presently. "I don't want; I want to grow potatoes." "Have a peppermint?" said Pig-wig. Pigling Bland refused quite crossly. "Does your poor toothy hurt?" inquired Pig- wig. Pigling Bland grunted.
Pig-wig ate the peppermint herself, and followed the opposite side of the road. "Pig-wig! keep under the wall, there's a man ploughing." Pig-wig crossed over, they hurried down hill towards the county boundary.
Suddenly Pigling stopped; he heard wheels.
Slowly jogging up the road below them came a tradesman's cart. The reins flapped on the horse's back, the grocer was reading a newspaper.
"Take that peppermint out of your mouth, Pig-wig, we may have to run. Don't say one word. Leave it to me. And in sight of the bridge!" said poor Pigling, nearly crying. He began to walk frightfully lame, holding Pig-wig's arm.
The grocer, intent upon his newspaper, might have passed them, if his horse had not shied and snorted. He pulled the cart crossways, and held down his whip. "Hallo? Where are you going to?"—Pigling Bland stared at him vacantly.
"Are you deaf? Are you going to market?" Pigling nodded slowly.
"I thought as much. It was yesterday. Show me your license?"
Pigling stared at the off hind shoe of the grocer's horse which had picked up a stone.
The grocer flicked his whip— "Papers? Pig license?" Pigling fumbled in all his pockets, and handed up the papers. The grocer read them, but still seemed dissatisfied. "This here pig is a young lady; is her name Alexander?" Pig-wig opened her mouth and shut it again; Pigling coughed asthmatically.
The grocer ran his finger down the advertisement column of his newspaper—"Lost, stolen or strayed, 10S. reward;" he looked suspiciously at Pig-wig. Then he stood up in the trap, and whistled for the ploughman.
"You wait here while I drive on and speak to him," said the grocer, gathering up the reins. He knew that pigs are slippery; but surely, such a VERY lame pig could never run!
"Not yet, Pig-wig, he will look back." The grocer did so; he saw the two pigs stock-still in the middle of the road. Then he looked over at his horse's heels; it was lame also; the stone took some time to knock out, after he got to the ploughman.
"Now, Pig-wig, NOW!" said Pigling Bland.
Never did any pigs run as these pigs ran! They raced and squealed and pelted down the long white hill towards the bridge. Little fat Pig- wig's petticoats fluttered, and her feet went pitter, patter, pitter, as she bounded and jumped.
They ran, and they ran, and they ran down the hill, and across a short cut on level green turf at the bottom, between pebble beds and rushes.
They came to the river, they came to the bridge—they crossed it
hand in hand—then over the hills and far away she danced with
[Dedicated With very kind regards to old Mr. John Taylor, Who "thinks he might pass as a dormouse," (Three years in bed and never a grumble!).]
Once upon a time there was a village shop. The name over the window was "Ginger and Pickles."
It was a little small shop just the right size for Dolls— Lucinda and Jane Doll-cook always bought their groceries at Ginger and Pickles.
The counter inside was a convenient height for rabbits. Ginger and Pickles sold red spotty pocket handkerchiefs at a penny three farthings.
They also sold sugar, and snuff and galoshes.
In fact, although it was such a small shop it sold nearly everything—except a few things that you want in a hurry—like bootlaces, hair- pins and mutton chops.
Ginger and Pickles were the people who kept the shop. Ginger was a yellow tomcat, and Pickles was a terrier.
The rabbits were always a little bit afraid of Pickles.
The shop was also patronized by mice—only the mice were rather afraid of Ginger.
Ginger usually requested Pickles to serve them, because he said it made his mouth water.
"I cannot bear," said he, "to see them going out at the door carrying their little parcels."
"I have the same feeling about rats," replied Pickles, "but it would never do to eat our customers; they would leave us and go to Tabitha Twitchit's."
"On the contrary, they would go nowhere," replied Ginger gloomily.
(Tabitha Twitchit kept the only other shop in the village. She did not give credit.)
But there is no money in what is called the "till."
Ginger and Pickles gave unlimited credit.
Now the meaning of "credit" is this—when a customer buys a bar of soap, instead of the customer pulling out a purse and paying for it —she says she will pay another time.
And Pickles makes a low bow and says, "With pleasure, madam," and it is written down in a book.
The customers come again and again, and buy quantities, in spite of being afraid of Ginger and Pickles.
The customers came in crowds every day and bought quantities, especially the toffee customers. But there was always no money; they never paid for as much as a penny- worth of peppermints.
But the sales were enormous, ten times as large as Tabitha Twitchit's.
As there was always no money, Ginger and Pickles were obliged to eat their own goods.
Pickles ate biscuits and Ginger ate a dried haddock.
They ate them by candle- light after the shop was closed.
"It is very uncomfortable, I am afraid I shall be summoned. I have tried in vain to get a license upon credit at the Post Office;" said Pickles. "The place is full of policemen. I met one as I was coming home.
"Let us send in the bill again to Samuel Whiskers, Ginger, he owes 22/9 for bacon."
"I do not believe that he intends to pay at all," replied Ginger.
When it came to Jan. 1st there was still no money, and Pickles was unable to buy a dog license.
"It is very unpleasant, I am afraid of the police," said Pickles.
"It is your own fault for being a terrier; I do not require a license, and neither does Kep, the Collie dog."
"And I feel sure that Anna Maria pockets things—
"Where are all the cream crackers?"
"You have eaten them yourself." replied Ginger.
Ginger and Pickles retired into the back parlour.
They did accounts. They added up sums and sums, and sums.
"Samuel Whiskers has run up a bill as long as his tail; he has had an ounce and three- quarters of snuff since October.
"What is seven pounds of butter at 1/3, and a stick of sealing wax and four matches?"
"Send in all the bills again to everybody `with compliments,'" replied Ginger.
Pickles nearly had a fit, he barked and he barked and made little rushes.
"Bite him, Pickles! bite him!" spluttered Ginger behind a sugar barrel, "he's only a German doll!"
The policeman went on writing in his notebook; twice he put his pencil in his mouth, and once he dipped it in the treacle.
Pickles barked till he was hoarse. But still the policeman took no notice. He had bead eyes, and his helmet was sewed on with stitches.
After a time they heard a noise in the shop, as if something had been pushed in at the door. They came out of the back parlor. There was an envelope lying on the counter, and a policeman writing in a notebook!
At length on his last little rush—Pickles found that the shop was empty. The policeman had disappeared.
But the envelope remained.
"Do you think that he has gone to fetch a real live policeman? I am afraid it is a summons," said Pickles.
"No," replied Ginger, who had opened the envelope, "it is the rates and taxes, 3 pounds 19 11 3/4." [pounds are British money, the 19 is schillings, and then pence]
"This is the last straw," said Pickles, "let us close the shop."
They put up the shutters, and left. But they have not removed from the neighbourhood. In fact some people wish they had gone further.
Ginger is living in the warren [game preserve for rabbits]. I do not know what occupation he pursues; he looks stout and comfortable.
Pickles is at present a game- keeper.
After a time Mr. John Dormouse and his daughter began to sell peppermints and candles.
But they did not keep "self- fitting sixes"; and it takes five mice to carry one seven inch candle.
The closing of the shop caused great inconvenience. Tabitha Twitchit immediately raised the price of everything a halfpenny; and she continued to refuse to give credit.
Of course there are the tradesmen's carts—the butcher, the fishman and Timothy Baker.
But a person cannot live on "seed wigs" and sponge cake and butter buns—not even when the sponge cake is as good as Timothy's!
And Miss Dormouse refused to take back the ends when they were brought back to her with complaints.
And when Mr. John Dormouse was complained to, he stayed in bed, and would say nothing but "very snug;" which is not the way to carry on a retail business.
Besides—the candles which they sell behave very strangely in warm weather.
So everybody was pleased when Sally Henny Penny sent out a printed poster to say that she was going to reopen the shop—"Henny's Opening Sale! Grand cooperative Jumble! Penny's penny prices! Come buy, come try, come buy!"
The poster really was most 'ticing.
There was a rush upon the opening day. The shop was crammed with customers, and there were crowds of mice upon the biscuit canisters.
Sally Henny Penny gets rather flustered when she tries to count out change, and she insists on being paid cash; but she is quite harmless.
And she has laid in a remarkable assortment of bargains.
There is something to please everybody.