The Pie and the Patty-Pan
 

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 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!"