Pussy-cat sits by the fire–how should she be fair?
In walks the little dog–says “Pussy are you there?
How do you do Mistress Pussy? Mistress Pussy, how do you do?”
“I thank you kindly, little dog, I fare as well as you!”
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!”