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a field, where it was broken into a dozen pieces by its fall. This released Tom, who ran home to his mother. She was glad to see him, although it made her no little work to clean the dough and plums from his clothing.
Once Tom fell into the milk and was nearly drowned. Again he fell over the edge of the salt box which hung on the wall, and could not get out until his mother heard his cries and lifted him down. It was not long after Tom fell into the saltcellar that his mother took him out into the field with her while she milked the cows. Fearing that he would be blown away by the wind, she tied him to a thistle with a piece of string. There Tom sat singing merrily while his mother did the milking.
When a big bumblebee came buzzing along Tom cried out, “Give me some of your honey.'
“I am sorry, but I cannot. I need it for my little ones at home,” replied the bee.
Next a beautiful butterfly came near Tom., and the little fellow called out, “Mrs. Butterfly, will you give me a ride on your back some day?”
But the butterfly went quickly away, saying over her shoulder, “I do not dare to have you on my back. You would brush the tiny scarlet and gold feathers from my wings.”
After a while a little field mouse came and blinked at Tom with his sharp little eyes.
Tom said, “May I come and rest in your house some day, Mr. Mouse?”
But the mouse ran away, and as he ran he said something which Tom could not understand, but which was, “If I should take you to my house I am afraid you would show the cats the way to it.”
The next animal that came along was an enormous cow, who savagely pulled up the thistle to which Tom was tied and gathered him in with it. Tom was terribly frightened by the big white teeth, the great red tongue and the yawning throat of the cow.
He shouted out at the very top of his shrill little voice, “Mother, mother."
His mother heard and answered, “Where are you, Tom? Where are you, Tom?”
“Here, mother. I am in the red cow's mouth,” said Tom.
Now his mother was frightened surely enough; but Tom kicked and scratched and bit the cow's throat so savagely that she was glad to throw him out of her mouth again. His mother picked him up in a hurry, put him in her apron and ran back to the house, where she was a long time cleaning him up and changing his clothes.
Another day, when Tom was helping drive the cattle home, a raven caught him up with some kernels of corn and flew with him to the top of a giant's great castle, where he left him. Very soon the giant, walking about on the terrace of his castle, saw Tom, and would quickly have eaten him; but Tom scratched and bit the giant's tongue till the great fellow spit him out of his mouth, over the terrace and into the sea.
While Tom was struggling in the water a large fish came along and swallowed the little man in a jiffy. Tom was not big enough to satisfy the hunger of the fish, who almost immediately seized the bait of a fisherman, and was soon landed in the boat. The fish was so large and fine that it seemed fit only for a king, and the fisherman took it as a present to King Arthur, who sent it to the kitchen to be cooked. You may imagine the surprise of the cook when she cut open the fish and found Tom alive and kicking within.
Of course so wonderful a prize was sent at once to the king, who with all his court was very much delighted with the little man. For a long time Tom Thumb was a favorite dwarf at the court, and amused the king and all his followers by merry pranks. The king used to take Tom hunting, and if a shower came up or the sun grew too hot he would drop Tom into his waistcoat pocket, where the tiny man slept till it was pleasant again.
Tom became such a favorite with the king that the latter dressed him up in rich clothes and sent him to pay a visit to his parents, telling him that he might have as much money as he could carry. Tom found a little purse, put into it as much as he could lift, shouldered his little bag and started on his journey. After traveling two days and nights and being almost worn out with the huge weight of silver on
his back, he arrived at his father's house. His parents were overjoyed to see him. Tom could scarcely wait to tell them about the money he had.
“O mother,” he said, “I have brought you a fortune. The king gave me all the money I could carry to bring home to you, and here it is.”
Then Tom opened the purse, and there rolled out upon the floor—a silver three-penny piece! The farmer and his wife were amazed at such a sum of money.
When Tom's visit was over, his mother took him up, set him on the palm of her hand, and then with a strong puff of her breath blew him back to the king's court, where everybody was glad to see him again.
King Arthur made Tom a knight, gave him elegant suits of clothes and a fine mouse to ride as a horse, and many are the stories told of Tom's wonderful deeds.
We have not time to read more of them now, but they were so wonderful that people heard about them all over the world. All very naturally wished that Tom had lived in their own country. After a while they began to think that he did live among them; and now if you should go to Europe you would hear the German children, the French children, the Danish children and all the others telling and reading stories about Tom Thumb. But always the German children read and tell about a German Tom Thumb; the French children, about a French Tom Thumb, and so on; but we are going to believe that Tom Thumb really lived in England in the merry days of King Arthur.
The story of Tom Thumb was published in rhyme
for the little folks of England almost three hundred years ago. It began in this way:
"In Arthur's court Tom Thumb did live,
A man of mickle might,
And eke a doughty knight.
“His stature but an inch in height,
Or quarter of a span;
Was proved a valiant man?”
The story was first written in prose in 1621, by Richard Johnson.