"Yes," replied the wife, and sighed, "even if we had only one, and it were quite small, and only as big as a thumb, I should be quite satisfied, and we would still love it with all our hearts."
Now it so happened that the woman fell ill, and after seven months gave birth to a child that was perfect in all its limbs, but no longer than a thumb.
Then said they, "It is as we wished it to be, and it shall be our dear child," and because of its size, they called it Thumbling. They did not let it want for food, but the child did not grow taller, but remained as it had been at the first; nevertheless, it looked sensibly out of its eyes, and soon showed itself to be a wise and nimble creature, for everything it did turned out well.
One day the peasant was getting ready to go into the forest to cut wood when he said as if to himself, "How I wish that there was any one who would bring the cart to me!"
"Oh father," cried Thumbling, "I will soon bring the cart, rely on that; it shall be in the forest at the appointed time."
The man smiled and said, "How can that be done? Thou art far too small to lead the horse by the reins."
"That's of no consequence, father; if my mother will only harness it, I shall sit in the horse's ear and call out to him how he is to go."
"Well," answered the man, "for once we will try it."
When the time came, the mother harnessed the horse and placed Thumbling in its ear, and then the little creature cried, "Gee up, gee up!"
Then it went quite properly as if with its master, and the cart went the right way into the forest. It so happened that just as he was turning a corner and the little one was crying, "Gee up," two strange men came towards him.
"My word!" said one of them. "What is this? There is a cart coming, and a driver is calling to the horse and still he is not to be seen!"
"That can't be right," said the other; "we will follow the cart and see where it stops."
The cart, however, drove right into the forest and exactly to the place where the wood had been cut. When Thumbling saw his father, he cried to him, "Seest thou, father, here I am with the cart; now take me down."
The father got hold of the horse with his left hand and with the right took his little son out of the ear. Thumbling sat down quite merrily on a straw, but when the two strange men saw him, they did not know what to say for astonishment.
Then one of them took the other aside and said, "Hark, the little fellow would make our fortune if we exhibited him in a large town for money. We will buy him."
They went to the peasant and said, "Sell us the little man. He shall be well treated with us."
"No," replied the father, "he is the apple of my eye, and all the money in the world cannot buy him from me."
Thumbling, however, when he heard of the bargain, had crept up the folds of his father's coat, placed himself on his shoulder, and whispered in his ear, "Father, do give me away; I will soon come back again."
Then the father parted with him to the two men for a handsome bit of money.
"Where wilt thou sit?" they said to him.
"Oh, just set me on the rim of your hat, and then I can walk backwards and forwards and look at the country, and still not fall down."
They did as he wished, and when Thumbling had taken leave of his father, they went away with him. They walked until it was dusk, and then the little fellow said, "Do take me down, I want to come down."
The man took his hat off and put the little fellow on the ground by the wayside, and he leapt and crept about a little between the sods, and then he suddenly slipped into a mouse-hole which he had sought out.
"Good evening, gentlemen; just go home without me," he cried to them, and mocked them.
They ran thither and stuck their sticks into the mouse-hole, but it was all lost labour. Thumbling crept still farther in, and as it soon became quite dark, they were forced to go home with their vexation and their empty purses.
Next: Thumbling (cont.)