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| Home | Reading Room The Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter

The Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter

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[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


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


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


"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


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


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.




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