(illustration by Otto Ubbelohde)
"It is so dangerous to walk on the ground in the dark," said he; "how easily a neck or a leg is broken!"
Fortunately, he knocked against an empty snail-shell. "Thank God!" said he. "In that I can pass the night in safety," and got into it.
Not long afterwards, when he was just going to sleep, he heard two men go by, and one of them was saying, "How shall we contrive to get hold of the rich pastor's silver and gold?"
"I could tell thee that," cried Thumbling, interrupting them.
"What was that?" said one of the thieves in fright. "I heard some one speaking."
They stood still listening, and Thumbling spoke again and said, "Take me with you, and I'll help you."
"But where art thou?"
"Just look on the ground, and observe from whence my voice comes," he replied.
There the thieves at length found him and lifted him up. "Thou little imp, how wilt thou help us?" they said.
"A great deal," said he. "I will creep into the pastor's room through the iron bars and will reach out to you whatever you want to have."
"Come then," they said, "and we will see what thou canst do."
When they got to the pastor's house, Thumbling crept into the room but instantly cried out with all his might, "Do you want to have everything that is here?"
The thieves were alarmed and said, "But do speak softly, so as not to waken any one!"
Thumbling however, behaved as if he had not understood this and cried again, "What do you want? Do you want to have everything that is here?"
The cook, who slept in the next room, heard this, and sat up in bed, and listened.
The thieves, however, had in their fright run some distance away, but at last they took courage and thought, "The little rascal wants to mock us."
They came back and whispered to him, "Come, be serious, and reach something out to us."
Then Thumbling again cried as loudly as he could, "I really will give you everything; just put your hands in."
The maid who was listening heard this quite distinctly, and jumped out of bed, and rushed to the door. The thieves took flight and ran as if the Wild Huntsman were behind them, but as the maid could not see anything, she went to strike a light.
When she came to the place with it, Thumbling, unperceived, betook himself to the granary, and the maid, after she had examined every corner and found nothing, lay down in her bed again and believed that, after all, she had only been dreaming with open eyes and ears.
Thumbling had climbed up among the hay and found a beautiful place to sleep in; there he intended to rest until day and then go home again to his parents. But he had other things to go through. Truly, there is much affliction and misery in this world!
When day dawned, the maid arose from her bed to feed the cows. Her first walk was into the barn, where she laid hold of an armful of hay, and precisely that very one in which poor Thumbling was lying asleep.
He, however, was sleeping so soundly that he was aware of nothing and did not awake until he was in the mouth of the cow, who had picked him up with the hay.
"Ah, heavens!" cried he; "how have I got into the fulling mill?" but he soon discovered where he was. Then it was necessary to be careful not to let himself go between the teeth and be dismembered, but he was nevertheless forced to slip down into the stomach with the hay.
"In this little room the windows are forgotten," said he, "and no sun shines in, neither will a candle be brought."
His quarters were especially unpleasing to him, and the worst was, more and more hay was always coming in by the door, and the space grew less and less. Then at length in his anguish, he cried as loud as he could, "Bring me no more fodder; bring me no more fodder."
The maid was just milking the cow, and when she heard someone speaking, and saw no one, and perceived that it was the same voice that she had heard in the night, she was so terrified that she slipped off her stool and spilt the milk. She ran in great haste to her master and said, "Oh heavens, pastor, the cow has been speaking!"
Next: Thumbling (end)