The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle
 

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!)