Written by Beatrix Potter.
ONCE upon a time there was a little girl named Lucie, who lived at a farm called Little-town. She was a good little girl—only she was always losing her handkerchiefs!
One day little Lucie came into the farm-yard crying—oh, did she cry! “I’ve lost my handkerchief! Three handkerchiefs and an apron! 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 seen three handkerchiefs?”
But the speckled hen ran into a barn, clucking—
“I go barefoot, barefoot, barefoot!”
And then Lucie asked Mr. Robin sitting on a twig.
Mr. Robin looked sideways at Lucie with his bright black eye, and he flew over a step and away.
Lucie climbed upon the steps 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 little 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.
Someone 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-lines cut from bracken stems and a heap of tiny clothes pins—but no handkerchiefs!
But there was something else—a door! straight into the hill; and inside it someone 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—this little person had PRICKLES!
“Who are you?” said Lucie. “Have you seen my handkerchiefs?”
The little person made a curtsey—”Oh, yes, if you please ma’am; my name is Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle; oh, yes if you please ma’am, I am an excellent starcher!” And she took something out of a clothes-basket, and spread it on the ironing-board.
“What’s that thing?” said Lucie—”that’s not my handkerchief?”
“Oh no, that’s a little scarlet waist-coat belonging to
Mr. 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 apron.” said Lucie.
“Oh no, if you please ma’am; that’s a table-cloth belonging to Jenny Wren; look how it’s stained with currant juice! 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 handkerchiefs!” cried Lucie—”and there’s my apron!”
Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle ironed 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 handkerchief—but it isn’t mine; it’s red?”
“Oh no, if you please ma’am; that one belongs to old Mrs. Rabbit; and it DID so smell of onions! I’ve had to wash it separately, I just 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 handkerchief!” said Lucie.
“And what are you dipping into the basin of starch?”
“They’re little shirt-fronts belonging to Tom Titmouse—he’s most terribly 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.”
“Their jackets come off?” asked Lucy.
“Oh yes; look at the sheep-mark on the shoulder. 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 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 handkerchiefs were folded up inside her clean apron, 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 steps, there was nothing left to carry except Lucie’s one little bundle.
Lucie scrambled up the steps 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.