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* Pie and the Patty-Pan
The Pie and the Patty-Pan
Pussy-cat sits by the fire--how should she be fair?
Duchess read the letter and wrote an answer:--"I will come with much pleasure at a quarter past four. But it is very strange. I was just going to invite you to come here, to supper, my dear Ribby, to eat something MOST DELICIOUS."
"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.
"It is all ready to put into the oven. Such lovely pie-crust; and I put in a little tin patty-pan to hold up the crust; and I made a hole in the middle with a fork to let out the steam--Oh I do wish I could eat my own pie, instead of a pie made of mouse!"
Duchess considered and considered and read Ribby' s letter again--
"A pink and white pie-dish-and YOU shall eat it all. 'You' means me--then
Ribby is not going to even taste the pie herself? A pink and white pie-dish!
Ribby is sure to go out to buy the muffins. . . . .Oh what a good idea! Why
shouldn't I rush along and put my pie into Ribby's oven when Ribby isn't
Duchess was quite delighted with her own cleverness!
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. "It is a pie of the most delicate and tender mouse minced up with bacon. And I have taken out all the bones; because Duchess did nearly choke herself with a fish-bone last time I gave a party. She eats a little fast -- rather big mouthfuls. But a most genteel and elegant little dog infinitely superior company to Cousin Tabitha Twitchit."
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. She shook the mats out at the front-door and put them straight; the hearth-rug was a rabbit-skin. She dusted the lock and the ornaments on the mantelpiece, and she polished and rubbed the tables and chairs.
Then she spread a very clean white table-cloth, and set out her best china tea-set, which she took out of a wall-cupboard near the fireplace. The tea-cups were white with a pattern of pink roses; and the dinner-plates were white and blue.
When Ribby had laid the table she took a jug and a blue and white dish, and 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 own 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.
Cousin Tabitha was disdainful afterwards in conversation--
"A little DOG indeed! Just as if there were no CATS in Sawrey! And a PIE for afternoon tea! The very idea!" said 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.
"I trust that is not that Pie: the spoons are locked up, however," said Ribby.
But there was nobody there. Ribby opened the bottom oven door with some difficulty, and turned the pie. There began to be a pleasing smell of baked mouse!
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!"
Duchess went home and brushed her beautiful black coat; and then she picked a bunch of flowers in her garden as a present for Ribby; and passed the time until the clock struck four.
Ribby--having assured herself by careful search that there was really no one hiding in the cupboard or in the larder--went upstairs to change her dress.
She put on a lilac silk gown, for the party, and an embroidered muslin apron and tippet.
"It is very strange," said Ribby, "I did not THINK I left that drawer pulled out; has somebody been trying on my mittens?"
She came downstairs again, and made the tea, and put the teapot on the hob. She peeped again into the BOTTOM oven, the pie had become a lovely brown, and it was steaming hot.
She sat down before the fire to wait for the little dog. "I am glad I used the BOTTOM oven," said Ribby, "the top one would certainly have been very much too hot. I wonder why that cupboard door was open? Can there really have been some one in the house?"
Very punctually at four o'clock, Duchess started to go to the party. She ran so fast through the village that she was too early, and she had to wait a little while in the lane that leads down to Ribby's house.
"I wonder if Ribby has taken MY pie out of the oven yet?" said Duchess, "and whatever can have become of the other pie made of mouse?"
At a quarter past four to the minute, there came a most genteel little tap-tappity. "Is Mrs. Ribston at home?" inquired Duchess in the porch.
"Come in! and how do you do, my dear Duchess?" cried Ribby. "I hope I see you well?"
"Quite well, I thank you, and how do YOU do, my dear Ribby?" said Duchess. "I've brought you some flowers; what a delicious smell of pie!"
"Oh, what lovely flowers! Yes, it is mouse and bacon!"
"Do not talk about food, my dear Ribby," said Duchess; "what a lovely white tea-cloth! . . . . Is it done to a turn? Is it still in the oven?"
"I think it wants another five minutes," said Ribby. "Just a shade longer; I will pour out the tea, while we wait. Do you take sugar, my dear Duchess?"
"Oh yes, please! my dear Ribby; and may I have a lump upon my nose?"
"With pleasure, my dear Duchess; how beautifully you beg! Oh, how sweetly pretty!"
Duchess sat up with the sugar on her nose and sniffed--
"How good that pie smells! I do love veal and ham--I mean to say mouse and bacon----"
She dropped the sugar in confusion, and had to go hunting under the tea-table, so did not see which oven Ribby opened in order to get out the pie.
Ribby set the pie upon the table; there was a very savoury smell.
Duchess came out from under the table-cloth munching sugar, and sat up on a chair.
"I will first cut the pie for you; I am going to have muffin and marmalade," said Ribby.
"Do you really prefer muffin? Mind the patty-pan!"
"I beg your pardon?" said Ribby.
"May I pass you the marmalade?" said Duchess hurriedly.
The pie proved extremely toothsome, and the muffins light and hot. They disappeared rapidly, especially the pie!
"I think"--(thought the Duchess to herself)--"I THINK it would be wiser if I helped myself to pie; though Ribby did not seem to notice anything when she was cutting it. What very small fine pieces it has cooked into! I did not remember that I had minced it up so fine; I suppose this is a quicker oven than my own."
"How fast Duchess is eating!" thought Ribby to herself, as she buttered her fifth muffin.
The pie-dish was emptying rapidly! Duchess had had four helps already, and was fumbling with the spoon.
"A little more bacon, my dear Duchess?" said Ribby.
"Thank you, my dear Ribby; I was only feeling for the patty-pan."
"The patty-pan? my dear Duchess?"
"The patty-pan that held up the pie-crust," said Duchess, blushing under her black coat.
"Oh, I didn't put one in, my dear Duchess," said Ribby; "I don't think that it is necessary in pies made of mouse."
Duchess fumbled with the spoon --"I can't find it!" she said anxiously.
"There isn't a patty-pan," said Ribby, looking perplexed.
Duchess drew a long breath--
"Perhaps it might be wise, my dear Duchess. I will lend you a nice warm
shawl, and you shall take my arm."
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