The Piggy Girl by Louisa M. Alcott
"I won't be washed! I won't be washed!"
screamed little Betty, kicking and slapping
the maid who undressed her one night.
"You 'd better go and live with the pigs, dirty
child," said Maria, scrubbing away at two very
"I wish I could! I love to be dirty,--I will
be dirty!" roared Betty, throwing the sponge out
of the window and the soap under the table.
Maria could do nothing with her; so she
bundled her into bed half wiped, telling her to
go to sleep right away.
"I won't! I 'll go and live with Mrs. Gleason's
pigs, and have nothing to do but eat and sleep,
and roll in the dirt, and never, never be washed
any more," said Betty to herself.
She lay thinking about it and blinking at the
moon for a while; then she got up very softly,
and crept down the back stairs, through the garden,
to the sty where two nice little pigs were fast
asleep among the straw in their small house.
They only grunted when Betty crept into a
corner, laughing at the fun it would be to play piggy
and live here with no Maria to wash her and no
careful mamma to keep saying,--
"Put on a clean apron, dear!"
Next morning she was waked up by hearing
Mrs. Gleason pour milk into the trough. She
lay very still till the woman was gone; then she
crept out and drank all she wanted, and took
the best bits of cold potato and bread for her
breakfast, and the lazy pigs did not get up till
she was done. While they ate and rooted in
the dirt, Betty slept as long as she liked, with
no school, no errands, no patchwork to do. She
liked it, and kept hidden till night; then she
went home, and opened the little window in the
store closet, and got in and took as many good
things to eat and carry away as she liked. She
had a fine walk in her nightgown, and saw the
flowers asleep, heard the little birds chirp in the
nest, and watched the fireflies and moths at their
pretty play. No one saw her but the cats; and
they played with her, and hopped at her toes, in
the moonlight, and had great fun.
When she was tired she went to sleep with the
pigs, and dozed all the next day, only coming
out to eat and drink when the milk was brought
and the cold bits; for Mrs. Gleason took good
care of her pigs, and gave them clean straw
often, and kept them as nice as she could.
Betty lived in this queer way a long time, and
soon looked more like a pig than a little girl; for
her nightgown got dirty, her hair was never
combed, her face was never washed, and she
loved to dig in the mud till her hands looked like
paws. She never talked, but began to grunt as
the pigs did, and burrowed into the straw to sleep,
and squealed when they crowded her, and quarrelled
over the food, eating with her nose in the
trough like a real pig. At first she used to play
about at night, and steal things to eat; and people
set traps to catch the thief in their gardens, and
the cook in her own house scolded about the
rats that carried off the cake and pies out of her
pantry. But by and by she got too lazy and fat
to care for anything but sleeping and eating, and
never left the sty. She went on her hands and
knees now, and began to wonder if a little tail
would n't grow and her nose change to a snout.
All summer she played be a pig, and thought
it good fun; but when the autumn came it was
cold, and she longed for her nice warm flannel
nightgown, and got tired of cold victuals, and
began to wish she had a fire to sit by and good
buckwheat cakes to eat. She was ashamed to go
home, and wondered what she should do after
this silly frolic. She asked the pigs how they
managed in winter; but they only grunted, and she
could not remember what became of them, for
the sty was always empty in cold weather.
One dreadful night she found out. She was
smuggled down between the great fat piggies
to keep warm; but her toes were cold, and she
was trying to pull the straw over them when she
heard Mr. Gleason say to his boy,--
"We must kill those pigs to-morrow. They
are fat enough; so come and help me sharpen
the big knife."
"Oh, dear, what will become of me?" thought
Betty, as she heard the grindstone go round and
round as the knife got sharper and sharper. "I
look so like a pig they will kill me too, and
make me into sausages if I don't run away. I 'm
tired of playing piggy, and I 'd rather be washed
a hundred times a day than be put in a pork
So she lay trembling till morning; then she
ran through the garden and found the back door
open. It was very early, and no one saw her,
for the cook was in the shed getting wood to
make her fire; so Betty slipped upstairs to the
nursery and was going to whisk into bed, when
she saw in the glass an ugly black creature, all
rags and dirt, with rumpled hair, and a little
round nose covered with mud.
"Can it be me?" she said. "How horrid I
am!" And she could not spoil her nice white
bed, but hopped into the bathtub and had a good
scrubbing. Next she got a clean nightgown,
and brushed her hair, and cut her long nails, and
looked like a tidy little girl again.
Then she lay down in her cosey crib with the
pink cover and the lace curtains, and fell fast
asleep, glad to have clean sheets, soft blankets,
and her own little pillow once more.
"Come, darling, wake up and see the new
frock I have got for you, and the nice ruffled
apron. It's Thanksgiving day, and all the
cousins are coming to dinner," said her mamma,
with a soft kiss on the rosy cheek.
Betty started up, screaming,--
"Don't kill me! Oh, please don't! I 'm not
a truly pig, I 'm a little girl; and if you'll let me
run home, I 'll never fret when I 'm washed
"What is the dear child afraid of?" said
mamma, cuddling her close, and laughing to see
Betty stare wildly about for the fat pigs and the
She told her mother all about the queer time
she had had, and was much surprised to hear
"It was all a dream, dear; you have been
safely asleep in your little bed ever since you
slapped poor Maria last night."
"Well, I 'm glad I dreamed it, for it has made
me love to be clean. Come, Maria, soap and
scrub as much as you like, I won't kick and
scream ever any more," cried Betty, skipping
about, glad to be safe in her pleasant home and
no longer a dirty, lazy piggy girl.