Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle

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The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter - is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was published by Frederick Warne & Co. in October 1905. Mrs. Tiggy-winkle is a hedgehog washerwoman (laundress) who lives in a tiny cottage in the fells of the Lake District. A human child named Lucie happens upon the cottage and stays for tea. The two deliver freshly laundered clothing to the animals and birds in the neighbourhood. Potter thought the book would be best enjoyed by girls, and, like most girls' books of the period, it is set indoors with a focus on housework. Plot A little girl named Lucie lives on a farm called Little-Town. She is a good little girl, but has lost three pocket handkerchiefs and a pinafore. She questions Tabby Kitten and Sally Henny-penny about them, but they know nothing (especially since Tabby Kitten licks her paw, and Sally Henny-penny flaps back into the barn clucking, "I go barefoot, barefoot, barefoot!" neither of which is very helpful). Lucie mounts a stile and spies some white cloths lying in the grass high on a hill behind the farm. She scrambles up the hill along a steep path-way which ends under a big rock. She knocks. A frightened voice cries out, "Who's that?" Lucie opens the door, and discovers a low-ceilinged kitchen. Everything is tiny, even the pots and pans. At the table stands a short, stout person wearing a tucked-up print gown, an apron, and a striped petticoat. She is ironing. Her little black nose goes sniffle, sniffle, snuffle, and her eyes go twinkle, twinkle, and beneath her little white cap are prickles! She is Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, a Washerwoman and "an excellent clear-starcher". She keeps busy with her work. She has found Lucie's lost things, and launders them for her. She also shows Lucie items belonging to Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle's animal customers. They have tea together, though Lucie keeps her distance from Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle due to the prickles. The laundered clothing is tied up in bundles and Lucie's handkerchiefs are neatly folded into her clean pinafore. They set off together down the path to return the fresh laundry to the little animals and birds in the neighbourhood. At the bottom of the hill, Lucie mounts the stile and turns to thank Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. However, strangely, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is "running running running up the hill". She has not asked Lucie for the washing bill nor has she said goodbye. Her cap, shawl, and print gown are nowhere to be seen. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is much smaller and covered in brown prickles. Lucie realises that Mrs. Tiggy Winkle is nothing more than a Hedgehog!" The narrator tells the reader that some thought Lucie had fallen asleep on the stile and dreamed the encounter, but if so, then how could she have three clean handkerchiefs and a laundered pinafore? "Besides," the narrator assures the reader, "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!"
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