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
"Sally Henny-penny, has 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
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 stout 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.
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 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-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
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 a clothes-basket, 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
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?"
"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
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 handkersniff--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 the
"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 wooly coats belonging to the little lambs at Skelghyl."
"Will their jackets take off?" asked Lucy.
"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 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 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.