All story: Hop-O'-My-Thumb
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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

THERE was once upon a time a wood-cutter and his wife who had seven children, all boys ; the eldest was ten years old and the youngest only seven. It was rather strange that the wood- cutter had had so many children in so short a period ; but the truth is that his wife always had at least two at a birth. They were very poor, and their seven children were a heavy burthen to them, for not one of them was yet old enough to earn his bread. What made the matter worse was the circumstance that the youngest child was a weakly little fellow, never saying a word, which they took to arise from stupidity, while in fact it was a sign of his wit. He was very little, indeed, when he was born he was no larger than a man's thumb ; which induced his father and mother to christen him " Hop-o'-my-Thumb." The poor child was the drudge of the whole house, and was always blamed for whatever was wrong. Notwithstanding all this, he was more clever and more knowing than any of his brothers, and though he spoke but little, he heard and remembered all. About this time there fell out a very scarce year, and the famine was so grievous that the poor people resolved to get rid of their children altogether. One evening after they had gone to bed, and the parents were sitting near the fire, the wood cutter said to his wife, his heart being torn with anguish, " You see that we can no longer keep our children : I cannot see them die of hun- ger before my face, and am resolved to lose them tomorrow in the forest, which will not be very difficult to do ; for, while they are amusing themselves with tying up the faggots, we have only to slip away from them unperceived." " Ah ! husband," cried the poor woman, "could you be so hard-hearted as to lose your own children ? " In vain her husband for a long time represented to her their great distress ; she would not consent : she was poor, but she was their mother. However, at last, having considered how dreadful it would be to see them die of hunger before her eyes, she agreed to her husband's proposal and went weeping to bed. Hop-o'-my-Thumb had overheard all their conversation ; for, having when in bed heard his father talking very seriously, he had quietly risen, and slipped under the stool on which his father and mother were sitting, and listened to them without being seen. When his father and mother had left off talking, he went back to his bed again ; but slept no more that night, thinking of what he should do in the morning. He got up very early, and went to the side of a brook, where he filled his pockets with little white pebbles ; he then returned to the house. They set out, and Hop-o'-my-Thumb did not mention a word of what he had learned to his brothers. They went into a very thick forest, where the trees grew so closely together that they could not see each other when they were ten steps apart. The wood- cutter went to his work, cutting down trees, while his children began to pick up sticks to make faggots. When the father and mother saw them busily employed, they suddenly gave them the slip, and returned home by a bye path. As soon as the poor children found themselves alone, they began to cry, calling out for their parents as loudly as they could. Hop-o'-my-Thumb let them cry on, knowing very well, the way to take them home again ; for as he had come to the wood, he had taken good care to drop all along the road, the white pebbles with which he had Ulled his pockets. After a while, however, he said to them : " Do not be afraid my lads, our father and mother have left us here, but I will conduct you safely home again ; only follow me. He then led the way and took them back to their cottage, by the same road they had come to the forest. They were at first afraid to go in, and stationed themselves against the door to listen to what their father and mother were saying.
Just as the wood- cutter and his wife had arrived at their home, the lord of the village had sent them ten dollars which he had owed them a long time, and which they had given up all hopes of ever being paid. This money came just in time to save their lives, for the poor folks were nearly dying with hunger. The wood-cutter immediately dispatched his wife to the butcher's. As it was a long time since they had eaten any- thing, she bought three times as much meat as was necessary for two people's supper. When they had satisfied their hunger, the mother began to sigh, and said to her husband : " Alas ! where are our poor children now ? what a good supper would they have made of what is remaining of ours. O ! William, it is all your fault that they are lost ; I said, over and over again, that we should certainly repent leaving them to starve in the forest. Oh ! Heavens, where are they now ; the wolves, perhaps, have already devoured them ; how cruel you were to abandon your children." The wood-cutter soon began to grow impatient, for she kept continually repeating, that they would deeply repent this cruelty, and that she had all along said how it would be. He threatened therefore to beat her if she did not hold her tongue. Not that the wood-cutter was not quite as much, and perhaps even more grieved than his wife ; but she exhausted his patience ; in fact he was like most other men who like their wives to talk wisely, but find them very importunate when their advice has been neglected. The poor woman shed abundance of tears, repeating : " Alas ! where are my children now, my poor children." At last, she spoke so loud, that her children, who were at the door, heard her, and cried out all together : " Here we are ! here we are ! " She quickly ran to open the door for them, crying as she embraced them : "How glad I am to see you again, my dear, dear children ! how tired you must be. Why poor little Peter, you are all over dirt ; come and let me wash your face." Peter was her eldest child, and she loved him better than all his brothers because he was like her, in having red hair. They all sat down to table, and ate away with so good an appetite, that it quite rejoiced their father and mother to see them ; meanwhile they recounted the fear they had been in, when they found themselves alone in the forest ; almost always speaking at once.

The poor people were in ecstacies at once more recovering their children, and their joy lasted until the ten dollars were spent; but when the money was all gone, and they sank into their former state of distress again, they resolved once more to get rid of their little ones, and to take good care to lead them much farther into the forest, than they had done on the former occasion ; so that they should not be able to find their way back again. They did not however talk the matter over so quietly, but that they were overheard by Hop- o'-my-Thumb, who reckoned on doing as he had done before ; but though he arose very early to seek the pebbles, he was not able to manage it, as he found the door double locked. He did not know what to do ; when, their mother having given each of them a slice of bread for their breakfast, the idea struck him of using his piece of bread as he had before used the pebbles, by scattering it in crumbs all along the way they should go ; so he thrust it into his pocket. The father and mother presently led them to the darkest and thickest place in all the forest, and after they had managed to slip away from their children, returned home. Hop-o'-my-Thumb did not give himself much concern, for he made sure of easily travelling the road by which they had come, by the help of the bread crumbs that he had dropped along the road. But what was his surprise, when he set about looking for them, at not finding a single crumb ; for the birds had eaten them all up. The poor children now were in a sad plight ; for the farther they wandered, the deeper they got into the forest. Night set in ; and a high wind arose, the noise of which among the trees frightened them dreadfully. They fancied that they heard, on all sides, the howlings of wolves, who were about to devour them. They hardly dared to speak or turn their heads. A heavy rain then began to fall, which soon wetted their clothes through and through ; they slipped at every step they took ; and kept falling down in the mud, from which they arose, with difficulty, covered with dirt. At last Hop-o'-my-Thumb climbed to the top of a tree, to see if he could discover any way out of the forest ; when, as he was peering very wistfully all around him, he observed a small light, apparently from a candle 1 ; but it was a long distance off and beyond the forest. He descended from the tree; but was grieved to find that he could not see it, in any direction, when he was on the ground. However, after he had walked some distance with his brothers, in the direction he fancied the light to be, he once more discovered it ; just as they reached the extremity of the wood. After a while they arrived at the house, in which the candle was burning ; but not without some trouble : for they lost sight of it several times, as they were passing parts of the road that lay low. They knocked at the door ; which was presently opened by a good-natured looking woman, who asked them what they wanted, Hop-o'-my- Thumb told her that they were poor children who had lost themselves in the forest; and begged that she would take pity on them, and give them a night's lodging. The good woman, seeing how pretty they all were, could not forbear crying ; and said to them : " Alas ! my poor children, you do not know where you are come ; this is the residence of an Ogre who eats up little children." "Alas! madam," answered Hop-o'-my-Thumb, who, like his brothers, was trembling from head to foot; " what shall we do ? If you do not give us a night's lodging, it is quite certain that the wolves in the forest will not fail to devour us ; and sooner than that, we would prefer to be eaten by the gentleman of the house ; for, perhaps he mav take pity on us, and spare our lives, if you join your entreaties to ours." The Ogre's wife, who thought that she might be able to conceal them, until the next day, from her husband, let them in ; and told them to warm themselves near a good fire : you may guess that it was a large one, for a whole sheep was roasting before it for the Ogre' s supper. As they were beginning to get warm, they heard three or four very loud knocks at the door : this was the Ogre. The good woman, his wife, then concealed them under the bed ; and went to open the door for her husband. The Ogre asked if his supper were ready, and his wine drawn ; and immediately seated himself at the table. The sheep was served up, although still half raw ; but he seemed to like it all the better. He then snuffed up to his right and left ; saying that he smelt fresh meat. " It must be the calf, which I have recently killed, that you smell," said his wife. " I tell you, once more, that I smell fresh meat," replied the Ogre, looking suspiciously at his wife ; "and there is something going on that I do not know of." With that, he rose from the table and went straight to the bed. " Ah !" said he, " wretched woman, is this the way you think to deceive me ! It would serve you right, were I to eat you, yourself; it is well for you that you are old and tough. However, here is some game that comes, very opportunely, to regale three Ogres of my acquaintance ; whom I expect about this time." He then drew them one by one, from under the bed. The poor children all fell on their knees and supplicated him to pardon them ; but they were in the power of one of the most cruel of Ogres, who so far from feeling pity, was already devouring them with his eyes ; and who said to his wife they would be delicious eating with a good rich sauce. He then fetched a large knife ; and, going to where the poor children were, he sharpened it on a whet-stone that he held in his left hand. He had already taken one of them in his grasp, when his wife said: "What in the world makes you in such a hurry to kill them to night ? Will there not be plenty of time to slaughter them to-morrow ?" " Silence !" answered the Ogre, " they will become more tender, by being kept a short time after they are killed." " But you have plenty of meat in the house," replied his wife; "there is a calf, two sheep, and half a pig." " That's true," said the Ogre ; " give them a good supper then, that they may not get thin, and put them to bed." The good woman was trans- ported with joy, and fetched them a good supper ; but they had not much appetite, for they were dreadfully frightened. As for the Ogre, he sat down to his bottle, ravished with the thoughts of the dainty repast that he should give his three friends. He drank more wine, by a dozen glasses, than usual ; which made him rather tipsy, and obliged him to go to bed as soon as he rose from table.
The Ogre had seven daughters, who were all quite children. These little Ogresses had very fair skins, for they were fed on raw meat like their father : but they had small grey eyes, quite round crooked noses ; and large mouths, with long sharp teeth which stood a great way apart from each other. They were as yet almost too young to do much mischief, but they were in a fair way of becoming as voracious as their father ; for they already bit little children and sucked their blood. The Ogresses had been put to bed early that night ; and the whole seven slept together in a large bed, each of them having a golden crown on her head. There was in the same room another bed of an equal size : in that bed the Ogress put Hop-o'-my-Thumb and his six brothers; after which she went to bed herself with her husband. Hop-o'- my-Thumb, who had remarked that the Ogre's daughters had crowns of gold on their heads, and who was fearful that the Ogre would repent not having cut their throats in the evening, arose about midnight; and taking off all his brothers' nightcaps and his own, he very gently placed them on the heads of the Ogre's seven daughters, having first removed their golden crowns, and put them on his own and his brothers' heads : so that the Ogre might mistake the seven boys for his seven daughters ; and his daughters for the boys, whose throats he wished to cut. The event answered his expectations ; for the Ogre, awaking about midnight, regretted that he had deferred until the next day, what he might so easily have done over night : so, half drunk, he hastily jumped out of bed, and taking his large knife : " Come," said he, " let me see what the little villains are about ; I'll not make two jobs of it." He then crept softly up stairs to his daughter's bed-room, and groped his way to the bed in which the little boys were all fast asleep, excepting Hop-o'-my-Thumb ; who was terribly frightened when he felt the Ogre touching his head with his hand, after having passed it over those of his brothers. When the Ogre felt the crowns of gold: " Truly," said he, "I was about to commit a pretty mistake ; I perceive that I drank too much last night." He then went to his daughters' bed ; and when he felt the boys' night-caps, he said : " So, so, here you are my boys ; let me go to work bravely." With these words, he unhesitatingly cut the throats of all his seven daughters. Satisfied with what he had done, he returned to bed to his wife. As soon as Hop-o'-my-Thumb heard the Ogre begin to snore, he awakened his brothers ; and told them to make haste and put on their clothes, and follow him. They descended very quietly into the garden, and then got over the wall into the road. They ran, as fast as they could, nearly all night ; trembling with terror, and not knowing which way they were going.

When the Ogre awakened in the morning, he said to his wife : " Go up stairs and dress those seven little rogues that I saw last night." The Ogress was not a little surprised to hear her husband speak so kindly of them ; little thinking of the way in which he really meant her to dress them, her only idea being that he wanted her to put on their clothes. She accordingly went up stairs, and was horror-stricken to see her seven daughters lying weltering in their blood, with their throats cut. She immediately fainted away ; as would have been the case with most women, similarly circumstanced. The 6gre, who thought that his wife was very long doing what he desired her, went up stairs to assist her ; and was, as may be supposed, dreadfully astonished at the frightful spectacle that presented itself. " Ah ! what have I done ?" cried he ; " but the little scoundrels shall suffer for it, and that very soon." He then threw a jug full of water over his wife's face, and when she came to herself: " Make haste, and fetch me my seven-league boots," said he to her, "that I may go and catch the little rascals." The Ogre, having put on the boots, sallied forth ; and, after he had strided over many parts of the country, he presently turned into the very road in which the seven poor children were pursuing their journey towards their parents' house ; at which they had arrived within a hundred yards. They saw the Ogre stalking from mountain to mountain, and crossing wide rivers as easily as he might have passed the smallest stream. Hop-o'- my-Thumb who observed a hollow rock at no great distance from them, hid his six brothers therein, and then crept into it himself', narrowly watching the Ogre's movements. The Ogre, being very tired with his long and useless journey (for seven- league boots are very tiresome to wear), felt inclined to repose himself a while ; and, by chance, stretched himself on the very rock under which the seven children [were concealed. As he was quite exhausted, he fell fast asleep ; and, after he had lain there a short time, began to snore so terribly loud, that the poor children were riot less afraid than they had been when he held his large knife in his hand, and was about to cut their throats. The least terrified of them was Hop-o'-my-Thumb ; who desired his brothers to make haste home immediately, while the Ogre was fast asleep, and not to trouble themselves about him. When they had gone, Hop-o'-my-Thumb crept very quietly up to the Ogre, gently drew off his boots, and put them on his own legs. The seven-league boots were very large and long ; but as they were fairy-boots, they had the quality of adapting themselves to the legs of the person who wore them, large or small : and, accordingly, they fitted him at correctly as though they had been made for him. He went straight to the Ogre's house, where he found the good woman who was weeping over the bodies of her daughters.
" Your husband," said Hop-o-my-Thumb to her, " is in great danger; for he has been taken prisoner by a band of robbers, who have sworn to kill him, if he does not deliver up to them all his gold and silver. Just as they had put the knife to his throat, with the intention of executing their threat, he perceived me. He begged me to go and advise you of what had befallen him, and desire you to give me all his wealth ; without retaining the smallest portion, for hi that case they will put him to death without mercy. As it was a matter of great moment, he permitted me to make use of his seven-league boots, which you see I have on ; both for the sake of making great haste, and of making it apparent to you that I am not an impostor." The Ogre's wife, dreadfully terrified, immediately handed over to him all that she had ; for though the Ogre ate little children, he was not a bad husband, and trusted her with his money. Then Hop-o'-my-Thumb, loaded with all the Ogre's wealth, returned home to his father and mother, where he was joyfully received.
There are some people who will not admit the truth of this latter circumstance, and pretend that Hop-o'-my-Thumb never committed this robbery of the Ogre's property ; that in truth he was so honest, that he could hardly make up his mind to take the seven-league boots, because the Ogre had only used them to chase little children. The said people assert that they have their information from a very good quarter, and have eaten and drunk in the wood- cutter's house. They go on to state that when Hop-o'-my-Thumb had put on the Ogre's boots, he proceeded to court, where he knew there was great anxiety felt for an army which was six-hundred miles from the capital, and also for the issue of a battle which had been lately fought; that he went straight to the king, and told him, that if he wished it, he would bring him news of his army before night-fall ; that the king promised him a large sum of money if he should succeed in so doing; that Hop-o'-my-Thumb returned with the desired information that same evening; and that this beginning having made him known, he afterwards earned as much as he liked: for that the king paid him very handsomely for carrying despatches between him and his army. They go on to say that, after having pursued for some time the business of a courier, and amassed a large for- tune by his exertions, he returned to his family, whose joy it is impossible to imagine at seeing him once again; and that, finally, having purchased official situations for his father and brothers, thus settling them all in easy circum- stances, and paying his court to the king perfectly well at the same time, he ultimately married the daughter of a nobleman, and lived happily with her all the rest of his life.


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