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The Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter

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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!"

[Old Rhyme]

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


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


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


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


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


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


"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


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 say 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!"




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