THE TALE OF JEMIMA PUDDLE-DUCK
Author of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”
What a funny sight it is to see a brood of ducklings with a hen!
Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Rebeccah Puddle-duck, was perfectly willing to leave the hatching to some one else—”I have not the patience to sit on a nest for twenty-eight days; and no more have you, Jemima. You would let them go cold; you know you would!”
She tried to hide her eggs; but they were always found and carried off.
She set off on a fine spring afternoon along the cart-road that leads over the hill.
When she reached the top of the hill, she saw a wood in the distance.
She flew beautifully when she had got a good start.
Jemima alighted rather heavily, and began to waddle about in search of a convenient dry nesting-place. She rather fancied a tree-stump amongst some tall fox-gloves.
But—seated upon the stump, she was startled to find an elegantly dressed gentleman reading a newspaper.
He had black prick ears and sandy coloured whiskers.
The gentleman raised his eyes above his newspaper and looked curiously at Jemima—
“Madam, have you lost your way?” said he. He had a long bushy tail which he was sitting upon, as the stump was somewhat damp.
“Ah! is that so? indeed!” said the gentleman with sandy whiskers, looking curiously at Jemima. He folded up the newspaper, and put it in his coat-tail pocket.
Jemima complained of the superfluous hen.
“But as to a nest—there is no difficulty: I have a sackful of feathers in my wood-shed. No, my dear madam, you will be in nobody’s way. You may sit there as long as you like,” said the bushy long-tailed gentleman.
He led the way to a very retired, dismal-looking house amongst the fox-gloves.
“This is my summer residence; you would not find my earth—my winter house—so convenient,” said the hospitable gentleman.
The shed was almost quite full of feathers—it was almost suffocating; but it was comfortable and very soft.
When she came out, the sandy whiskered gentleman was sitting on a log reading the newspaper—at least he had it spread out, but he was looking over the top of it.
He was so polite, that he seemed almost sorry to let Jemima go home for the night. He promised to take great care of her nest until she came back again next day.
Jemima Puddle-duck came every afternoon; she laid nine eggs in the nest. They were greeny white and very large. The foxy gentleman admired them immensely. He used to turn them over and count them when Jemima was not there.
At last Jemima told him that she intended to begin to sit next day—”and I will bring a bag of corn with me, so that I need never leave my nest until the eggs are hatched. They might catch cold,” said the conscientious Jemima.
“Madam, I beg you not to trouble yourself with a bag; I will provide oats. But before you commence your tedious sitting, I intend to give you a treat. Let us have a dinner-party all to ourselves!
“May I ask you to bring up some herbs from the farm-garden to make a savoury omelette? Sage and thyme, and mint and two onions, and some parsley. I will provide lard for the stuff—lard for the omelette,” said the hospitable gentleman with sandy whiskers.
Jemima Puddle-duck was a simpleton: not even the mention of sage and onions made her suspicious.
And she waddled into the kitchen, and got two onions out of a basket.
The collie-dog Kep met her coming out, “What are you doing with those onions? Where do you go every afternoon by yourself, Jemima Puddle-duck?”
Jemima was rather in awe of the collie; she told him the whole story.
He asked several questions about the wood, and about the exact position of the house and shed.
Jemima Puddle-duck went up the cart-road for the last time, on a sunny afternoon. She was rather burdened with bunches of herbs and two onions in a bag.
He was sitting on a log; he sniffed the air, and kept glancing uneasily round the wood. When Jemima alighted he quite jumped.
“Come into the house as soon as you have looked at your eggs. Give me the herbs for the omelette. Be sharp!”
He was rather abrupt. Jemima Puddle-duck had never heard him speak like that.
While she was inside she heard pattering feet round the back of the shed. Some one with a black nose sniffed at the bottom of the door, and then locked it.
A moment afterwards there were most awful noises—barking, baying, growls and howls, squealing and groans.
And nothing more was ever seen of that foxy-whiskered gentleman.
Unfortunately the puppies rushed in and gobbled up all the eggs before he could stop them.
She laid some more in June, and she was permitted to keep them herself: but only four of them hatched.
Jemima Puddle-duck said that it was because of her nerves; but she had always been a bad sitter.