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Tom Thumb

A poor woodman sat in his cottage one night, smoking his pipe bythe fireside, while his wife sat by his side spinning. «...

Tom Thumb

A poor woodman sat in his cottage one night, smoking his pipe bythe fireside, while his wife sat by his side spinning. «How lonelyit is, wife,» said he, as he puffed out a long curl of smoke, «for youand me to sit here by ourselves, without any children to play aboutand amuse us while other people seem so happy and merry with theirchildren!» «What you say is very true,» said the wife, sighing, andturning round her wheel; «how happy should I be if I had but onechild! If it were ever so small-nay, if it were no bigger than mythumb—I should be very happy, and love it dearly.» Now - odd as you maythink it - it came to pass that this good woman’s wish was fulfilled,just in the very way she had wished it; for, not long afterwards, shehad a little boy, who was quite healthy and strong, but was not muchbigger than my thumb. So they said, «Well, we cannot say we have notgot what we wished for, and, little as he is, we will love himdearly.» And they called him Thomas Thumb.

They gave him plenty of food, yet for all they could do he nevergrew bigger, but kept just the same size as he had been when he wasborn. Still, his eyes were sharp and sparkling, and he soon showedhimself to be a clever little fellow, who always knew well what he wasabout.

One day, as the woodman was getting ready to go into the wood to cutfuel, he said, «I wish I had someone to bring the cart after me, for Iwant to make haste.» «Oh, father,» cried Tom, «I will take care ofthat; the cart shall be in the wood by the time you want it.» Then thewoodman laughed, and said, «How can that be? you cannot reach up tothe horse’s bridle.» «Never mind that, father,» said Tom; «if mymother will only harness the horse, I will get into his ear and tellhim which way to go.» «Well,» said the father, «we will try for once.»

When the time came the mother harnessed the horse to the cart, and putTom into his ear; and as he sat there the little man told the beast howto go, crying out, «Go on!» and «Stop!» as he wanted: and thus the horsewent on just as well as if the woodman had driven it himself intothe wood. It happened that as the horse was going a little toofast, and Tom was calling out, «Gently! gently!» two strangers cameup. «What an odd thing that is!» said one: «there is a cart goingalong, and I hear a carter talking to the horse, but yet I can see noone.» «That is queer, indeed,» said the other; «let us follow thecart, and see where it goes.» So they went on into the wood, till atlast they came to the place where the woodman was. Then Tom Thumb,seeing his father, cried out, «See, father, here I am with the cart,all right and safe! now take me down!» So his father took hold of thehorse with one hand, and with the other took his son out of thehorse’s ear, and put him down upon a straw, where he sat as merry as youplease.

The two strangers were all this time looking on, and did not know whatto say for wonder. At last one took the other aside, and said, «Thatlittle urchin will make our fortune, if we can get him, and carry himabout from town to town as a show; we must buy him.» So they went up tothe woodman, and asked him what he would take for the little man. «Hewill be better off,» said they, «with us than with you.» «I won’t sellhim at all,» said the father; «my own flesh and blood is dearer to methan all the silver and gold in the world.» But Tom, hearing of thebargain they wanted to make, crept up his father’s coat to his shoulderand whispered in his ear, «Take the money, father, and let them haveme; I’ll soon come back to you.»

So the woodman at last said he would sell Tom to the strangers for alarge piece of gold, and they paid the price. «Where would you liketo sit?» said one of them. «Oh, put me on the rim of your hat; thatwill be a nice gallery for me; I can walk about there and see thecountry as we go along.» So they did as he wished; and when Tom hadtaken leave of his father they took him away with them.

They journeyed on till it began to be dusky, and then the little mansaid, «Let me get down, I’m tired.» So the man took off his hat, andput him down on a clod of earth, in a ploughed field by the side of theroad. But Tom ran about amongst the furrows, and at last slippedinto an old mouse-hole. «Good night, my masters!» said he, «I’m off!mind and look sharp after me the next time.» Then they ran at onceto the place, and poked the ends of their sticks into the mouse-hole,but all in vain; Tom only crawled farther and farther in; and at lastit became quite dark, so that they were forced to go their waywithout their prize, as sulky as could be.

When Tom found they were gone, he came out of his hiding-place.«What dangerous walking it is,» said he, «in this ploughed field! If Iwere to fall from one of these great clods, I should undoubtedly breakmy neck.» At last, by good luck, he found a large emptysnail-shell. «This is lucky,» said he, «I can sleep here very well’;and in he crept.

Just as he was falling asleep, he heard two men passing by,chatting together; and one said to the other, «How can we rob thatrich parson’s house of his silver and gold?» «I’ll tell you!» criedTom. «What noise was that?» said the thief, frightened; «I’m sure Iheard someone speak.» They stood still listening, and Tom said, «Takeme with you, and I’ll soon show you how to get the parson’s money.» «Butwhere are you?» said they. «Look about on the ground,» answered he,«and listen where the sound comes from.» At last the thieves foundhim out, and lifted him up in their hands. «You little urchin!» theysaid, «what can you do for us?» «Why, I can get between the ironwindow-bars of the parson’s house, and throw you out whatever youwant.» «That’s a good thought,» said the thieves; «come along, weshall see what you can do.»

When they came to the parson’s house, Tom slipped through thewindow-bars into the room, and then called out as loud as he couldbawl, «Will you have all that is here?» At this the thieves werefrightened, and said, «Softly, softly! Speak low, that you may notawaken anybody.» But Tom seemed as if he did not understand them, andbawled out again, «How much will you have? Shall I throw it all out?’Now the cook lay in the next room; and hearing a noise she raisedherself up in her bed and listened. Meantime the thieves werefrightened, and ran off a little way; but at last they plucked uptheir hearts, and said, «The little urchin is only trying to makefools of us.» So they came back and whispered softly to him, saying,«Now let us have no more of your roguish jokes; but throw us out someof the money.» Then Tom called out as loud as he could, «Very well!hold your hands! here it comes.»

The cook heard this quite plain, so she sprang out of bed, and ran toopen the door. The thieves ran off as if a wolf was at their tails:and the maid, having groped about and found nothing, went away for alight. By the time she came back, Tom had slipped off into the barn;and when she had looked about and searched every hole and corner, andfound nobody, she went to bed, thinking she must have been dreamingwith her eyes open.

The little man crawled about in the hay-loft, and at last found asnug place to finish his night’s rest in; so he laid himself down,meaning to sleep till daylight, and then find his way home to hisfather and mother. But alas! how woefully he was undone! what crossesand sorrows happen to us all in this world! The cook got up early,before daybreak, to feed the cows; and going straight to the hay-loft,carried away a large bundle of hay, with the little man in themiddle of it, fast asleep. He still, however, slept on, and did notawake till he found himself in the mouth of the cow; for the cook hadput the hay into the cow’s rick, and the cow had taken Tom up in amouthful of it. «Good lack-a-day!» said he, «how came I to tumble intothe mill?» But he soon found out where he really was; and was forcedto have all his wits about him, that he might not get between thecow’s teeth, and so be crushed to death. At last down he went into herstomach. «It is rather dark,» said he; «they forgot to build windowsin this room to let the sun in; a candle would be no bad thing.»

Though he made the best of his bad luck, he did not like his quartersat all; and the worst of it was, that more and more hay was alwayscoming down, and the space left for him became smaller and smaller. Atlast he cried out as loud as he could, «Don’t bring me any more hay!Don’t bring me any more hay!»

The maid happened to be just then milking the cow; and hearingsomeone speak, but seeing nobody, and yet being quite sure it was thesame voice that she had heard in the night, she was so frightened thatshe fell off her stool, and overset the milk-pail. As soon as she couldpick herself up out of the dirt, she ran off as fast as she couldto her master the parson, and said, «Sir, sir, the cow is talking!’But the parson said, «Woman, thou art surely mad!» However, hewent with her into the cow-house, to try and see what was thematter.

Scarcely had they set foot on the threshold, when Tom called out,«Don’t bring me any more hay!» Then the parson himself wasfrightened; and thinking the cow was surely bewitched, told his manto kill her on the spot. So the cow was killed, and cut up; and thestomach, in which Tom lay, was thrown out upon a dunghill.

Tom soon set himself to work to get out, which was not a very easytask; but at last, just as he had made room to get his head out, freshill-luck befell him. A hungry wolf sprang out, and swallowed up thewhole stomach, with Tom in it, at one gulp, and ran away.

Tom, however, was still not disheartened; and thinking the wolf wouldnot dislike having some chat with him as he was going along, he calledout, «My good friend, I can show you a famous treat.» «Where’s that?’said the wolf. «In such and such a house,» said Tom, describing hisown father’s house. «You can crawl through the drain into the kitchenand then into the pantry, and there you will find cakes, ham, beef, coldchicken, roast pig, apple-dumplings, and everything that your heart canwish.»

The wolf did not want to be asked twice; so that very night he went tothe house and crawled through the drain into the kitchen, and theninto the pantry, and ate and drank there to his heart’s content. Assoon as he had had enough he wanted to get away; but he had eaten somuch that he could not go out by the same way he came in.

This was just what Tom had reckoned upon; and now he began to set upa great shout, making all the noise he could. «Will you be easy?» saidthe wolf; «you’ll awaken everybody in the house if you make such aclatter.» «What’s that to me?» said the little man; «you have had yourfrolic, now I’ve a mind to be merry myself’; and he began, singingand shouting as loud as he could.

The woodman and his wife, being awakened by the noise, peeped througha crack in the door; but when they saw a wolf was there, you maywell suppose that they were sadly frightened; and the woodman ran forhis axe, and gave his wife a scythe. «Do you stay behind,» said thewoodman, «and when I have knocked him on the head you must rip him upwith the scythe.» Tom heard all this, and cried out, «Father, father!I am here, the wolf has swallowed me.» And his father said, «Heaven bepraised! we have found our dear child again’; and he told his wife notto use the scythe for fear she should hurt him. Then he aimed a greatblow, and struck the wolf on the head, and killed him on the spot!and when he was dead they cut open his body, and set Tommy free. «Ah!’said the father, «what fears we have had for you!» «Yes, father,’answered he; «I have travelled all over the world, I think, in oneway or other, since we parted; and now I am very glad to come home andget fresh air again.» «Why, where have you been?» said his father. «Ihave been in a mouse-hole—and in a snail-shell—and down a cow’sthroat—and in the wolf’s belly; and yet here I am again, safe andsound.»

«Well,» said they, «you are come back, and we will not sell you againfor all the riches in the world.»

Then they hugged and kissed their dear little son, and gave him plentyto eat and drink, for he was very hungry; and then they fetched newclothes for him, for his old ones had been quite spoiled on his journey.So Master Thumb stayed at home with his father and mother, in peace;for though he had been so great a traveller, and had done and seen somany fine things, and was fond enough of telling the whole story, healways agreed that, after all, there’s no place like _home!

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