Thumbkin





A woman was once stringing beans in her kitchen, and she thought to

herself:



"Oh, why have I not got a little baby boy; if I had only one as big as

one of these beans or as big as my thumb I should be content. How I

would love it, and dress it, and talk to it."



As she was speaking thus to herself and finishing off the beans,

suddenly she thought they all turned into little baby boys, jumping

and writhing about. She was so startled and afraid that she shook out

her apron, in which they all lay, into a big bowl of water with which

she was going to wash the beans. And then she hid her head in her

apron so as not to see what happened; and after a while she looked out

from under her apron and looked at the bowl, and there were all the

little boys floating and drowned, except one little boy at the top.

And she took pity on him and drew him out of the bowl; then she showed

him to her husband when he came home.



"We have always wanted a boy," she said to him, "even if it were not

bigger than our thumbs, and here we have him."



So they took him and dressed him up in a little doll's dress and made

much of him; and he learnt to talk, but he never grew any bigger than

their thumbs; and so they called him Thumbkin.



One day the man had to go down into the field, and he said to his

wife:



"My dear, I am going to get ready the horse and cart, and then I am

going down to the field to reap, and just at eleven o'clock I want you

to drive the cart down for me."



"Isn't that just like a man?" said his wife. "I suppose you'll want

your dinner at twelve, and how do you expect me to get it ready if I

have to drive your horse and cart down to the field and then have to

trudge back on my ten toes and get your dinner ready? What do you

think I am made of?"



"Well, it has to be done," said the man, "even if dinner has to be

late."



So they commenced quarrelling, till Thumbkin called out:



"Leave it to me, Father; leave it to me."



"Why, what can you do?" asked the man.



"Well," said Thumbkin, "if mother will only put me in Dobbin's ear, I

can guide him down to the field as well as she could."



At first they laughed, but then they thought they would try. So the

man went off to the field, and at eleven o'clock the woman put

Thumbkin into the horse's right ear; and he immediately called out,

"Gee!"



And the horse began to move. And as it went on towards the field

Thumbkin kept calling out:



"Right! Left! Left! Right!" and so on till they got near the field.



Now it happened that two men were coming that way, and they saw a

horse and cart coming towards them, with nobody on it, and yet the

horse was picking his way and turning the corners just as if somebody

was guiding him. So they followed the horse and cart till they got to

the field, when they saw the man take Thumbkin out of the horse's ear

and stroke him and thank him. They looked at one another and said:



"That lad is a wonder; if we could exhibit him we would make our

fortunes."



So the men went up to the man and said:



"Will you sell that lad?"



But the man said:



"No, not for a fortune; he's the light of our life."



But Thumbkin, who was seated on the man's shoulder, whispered to him:



"Sell me and I'll soon get back."



So the man after a time agreed to sell Thumbkin for a great deal of

money, and the men took him away with them.



"How shall we carry him?" said they.



But Thumbkin called out:



"Put me on the rim of your hat and I shall be able to see the

country."



And that is what they did.



After a time as it got dusk the men sat down by the wayside to eat

their supper. And the man took off his hat and put it on the ground,

when Thumbkin jumped off and hid himself in the crevice of a tree.



When they had finished their supper the men looked about to find

Thumbkin, but he was not there. And after a while they had to give up

the search and go away without him.



When they had gone three robbers came and sat down near the tree where

Thumbkin was and began to speak of their plans to rob the Squire's

house.



"The only way," said one, "would be to break down the door of the

pantry which they always lock at night."



"But," said another, "that'll make so much noise it will wake up the

whole house."



"Then one of us," said the first robber, "will have to creep in

through the window and unlock the door."



"But the window is too small," said the third robber; "none of us

could get through it."



"But I can," called out Thumbkin.



"What is that? Who was that?" called out the robbers, who commenced

thinking of running away. And then Thumbkin called out again:



"Do not be afraid, I'll not hurt you, and I can help you get into the

Squire's pantry."



Then he came out of the hole in the tree, and the robbers were

surprised to see how small he was. So they took him up with them to

the Squire's house, and when they got there they lifted him up and put

him through the window and told him to look out for the silver.



"I've found it! I've found it!" he called out at the top of his shrill

voice.



"Not so loud; not so loud," said they.



"What shall I hand out first, the spoons or the ladles?" he shouted

out again.



But this time the butler heard him and came down with his blunderbuss,

and the robbers ran off. So when the butler opened the door Thumbkin

crept out and went to the stable, and laid down to sleep in a nice

cozy bed of hay in the manger.



But in the morning the cows came into the stable, and one of them

walked up to the manger. And what do you think she did? She swallowed

the hay with little Thumbkin in it, and took him right down into her

tummy.



Shortly afterwards the cows were driven out to the milking place, and

the milkmaid commenced to milk the cow which had swallowed Thumbkin.

And when he heard the milk rattling into the pail he called out:



"Let me out! Let me out! Let me out!"



The milkmaid was so startled to hear a voice coming from the cow that

she upset the milking pail and rushed to her master, and said:



"The cow's bewitched! The cow's bewitched! She's talking through her

tummy."



The farmer came and looked at the cow, and when he heard Thumbkin

speaking out of her tummy he thought the milkmaid was quite right, and

gave orders for the cow to be slaughtered.



And when she was cut up by the butcher he didn't want the paunch--that

is the stomach--so he threw it out into the yard. And a wolf coming by

swallowed the paunch and Thumbkin with it.



When he found himself again in the wolf's stomach he called out as

before:



"Let me out! Let me out! Let me out!"



But the wolf said to him:



"What'll you do for me if I let you out?"



"I know a place where you can get as many chickens as you like, and if

you let me out I'll show you the way."



"No, no, my fine master," said the wolf; "you can tell me where it is,

and if I find you are right then I'll let you out."



So Thumbkin told him a way to his father's farm, and guided him to a

hole in the larder just big enough for the wolf to get through. When

he got through there were two fine fat ducks and a noble goose hung up

ready for the Sunday dinner. So Mr. Wolf set to work and ate the ducks

and the goose while Thumbkin kept calling out:



"Don't want any duck or geese. Let me out! Let me out!"



And when the wolf would not he called out:



"Father! Father! Mother! Mother!"



And his father and mother heard him, and they came rushing towards the

larder. Then the wolf tried to get through the hole he had come

through before, but he had eaten so much that he stuck there, and the

farmer and his wife came up and killed him.



Then they began to cut the wolf open and Thumbkin called out:



"Be careful! Be careful! I'm here, and you'll cut me up." And he had

to dodge the knife as it was coming through the wolf.



But at last the paunch of the wolf was slit open, and Thumbkin jumped

out and went to his mother. And she cleansed him and dressed him in

new clothes, and they sat down to supper as happy as could be.





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