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THE TALE OF MRS. TIGGYWINKLE

2006-09-07 20:12

    THE TALE OF MRS. TIGGYWINKLE

    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, has 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 stout 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 hill-side.

    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 foot-marks 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 clearstarcher!" And she took something out of a clothes- basket, 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 handkersniff——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 the 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 wooly coats belonging to the little lambs at Skelghyl."

    "Will their jackets take off?" asked Lucy.

    "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 Littletown. 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 mole- skin 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 HAIR-PINS 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. Tiggywinkle!)

    THE TALE OF GINGER &PICKLESONCE 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 tom-cat, 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 own 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.) 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.

    But there is no money in what is called the "till."

    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 pennyworth 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.

    When it came to Jan. st there was still no money, and Pickles was unable to buy a dog licence.

    "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 licence, and neither does Kep, the Collie dog."

    "It is very uncomfortable, I am afraid I shall be summoned. I have tried in vain to get a licence upon credit at the Post Office;" said Pickles. "The place is full of policeman. I met one as I was coming home."

    "Let us send in the bill again to Samuel Whiskers, Ginger, he owes / for bacon." "I do not believe that he intends to pay at all," replied Ginger. "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 /, and a stick of sealing wax and four matches?" "Send in all the bills again to everybody 'with compts' " replied Ginger. 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 parlour. There was an envelope lying on the counter, and a policeman writing in a note-book!

    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. 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, L    / ." "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. I do not know what occupation he pursues; he looks stout and comfortable. Pickles is at present a gamekeeper.

    The closing of the shop caused great inconvenience. Tabitha Twitchit immediately raised the price of everything a half-penny; and she continued to refuse to give credit.

    Of course there are the trades- men'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! 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. Besides——the candles which they sell behave very strangely in warm weather.

    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

    So everybody was pleased when Sally Henny Penny sent out a printed poster to say that she was going to re-open the shop—— "Henny's Opening Sale! Grand co-operative 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.

    THE END

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