THE TALE OF
Author of "The Tale of Peter Rabbit", &c
Frederick Warne & Co., Inc., New York
A FARMYARD TALE
RALPH AND BETSY
What a funny sight it is to see a brood of ducklings with a hen!
—Listen to the story of Jemima Puddle-duck, who was annoyed
because the farmer's wife would not let her hatch her own eggs.
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
"I wish to hatch my own eggs; I will hatch them all by myself," quacked Jemima Puddle-duck.
She tried to hide her eggs; but they were always found and
Jemima Puddle-duck became quite desperate.
She determined to make a nest right away from the farm.
She set off on a fine spring afternoon along the cart-road that
leads over the hill.
She was wearing a shawl and a poke bonnet.
When she reached the top of the hill, she saw a wood in the
She thought that it looked a safe quiet spot.
Jemima Puddle-duck was not much in the habit of flying.
She ran downhill a few yards flapping her shawl,
and then she jumped off into the air.
She flew beautifully when she had got a good start.
She skimmed along over the tree-tops until she saw an open
place in the middle of the wood, where the trees and brushwood
had been cleared.
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.
"Quack?" said Jemima Puddle-duck, with her head and her bonnet
on one side—"Quack?"
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.
Jemima thought him mighty civil and handsome. She explained
that she had not lost her way, but that she was trying to find
a convenient dry nesting-place.
"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.
"Indeed! how interesting! I wish I could meet with that fowl.
I would teach it to mind its own business!"
"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
It was built of faggots and turf, and there were two broken
pails, one on top of another, by way of a chimney.
"This is my summer residence; you would not find my earth—my
winter house—so convenient," said the hospitable gentleman.
There was a tumble-down shed at the back of the house, made of
old soap-boxes. The gentleman opened the door, and showed
The shed was almost quite full of feathers—it was almost
suffocating; but it was comfortable and very soft.
Jemima Puddle-duck was rather surprised to find such a vast
quantity of feathers. But it was very comfortable; and she
made a nest without any trouble at all.
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.
He said he loved eggs and ducklings; he should be proud to see
a fine nestful in his wood-shed.
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
"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.
She went round the farm-garden, nibbling off snippets of all
the different sorts of herbs that are used for stuffing roast
And she waddled into the kitchen, and got two onions out of a
The collie-dog Kep met her coming out, "What are you doing
with those onions? Where do you go every afternoon by yourself,
Jemima was rather in awe of the collie; she told him the
The collie listened, with his wise head on one side; he
grinned when she described the polite gentleman with sandy
He asked several questions about the wood, and about the exact
position of the house and shed.
Then he went out, and trotted down the village. He went to
look for two fox-hound puppies who were out at walk with the
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.
She flew over the wood, and alighted opposite the house of the
bushy long-tailed gentleman.
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.
She felt surprised, and uncomfortable.
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.
Jemima became much alarmed.
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.
Presently Kep opened the door of the shed, and let out
Unfortunately the puppies rushed in and gobbled up all the
eggs before he could stop them.
He had a bite on his ear and both the puppies were limping.
Jemima Puddle-duck was escorted home in tears on account of
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.