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only as big as my thumb.” And the honest labourer held up his thumb, which was certainly a rather big one.
“You shall have your wish, my friend,” said Merlin, with a smile; and he bade them farewell and departed.
You may fancy that such a clever man as Merlin had good friends among the fairies. This was the case ; and the great Oberon, the fairy king, knew Merlin, and loved him well ; and the enchanter had often witnessed the fairy revels held on the green at night; which the people said could be known by the fairy rings marked upon the grass, showing the places where the fairies had danced at night.
And what was of more importance in this case, Merlin, the
enchanter was, moreover, intimately acquainted with the Queen of the Fairies herself. He told her what the peasant had said, and they agreed that it would be a fine jest to let the good man have just exactly what he wished for, neither more nor less. The Queen of the Fairies took the matter in hand, and in due time the peasant's wife had a son; but what was that worthy man's surprise when for the first time he saw his son and heir! The baby was no bigger than the ploughman's thumb — though in every respect it was the prettiest little doll baby you could wish to see. The Queen of the Fairies herself came in very soon after it was born, and certain of the most skilful of her followers were appointed to the task of clothing the little stranger as a fairy child should be dressed. The following verse, written by one of the fairies at the time, will show you how this was performed. The fairy verse tells us :
An acorn hat he had for his crown;
His shirt it was by the spider spun;
His trousers with tags were done ;
Nicely tanned, with the hair within.
never grew any bigger ; so that the ploughman sometimes wished he had merely asked for a son without saying anything about the young gentleman's size—that he had not so particularly mentioned that the baby might be “ ever such a little 'un,” and that “ he would still be satisfied, so that it was a live baby of some kind, to take away the loneliness of the cottage." And he agreed with his wife in wishing he had not said
anything at all about his thumb, or that Merlin had not granted his wish so exactly to the letter; for he feared such a little fellow as his son would never be able to defend himself against the attacks of the rude boys in the village, who would, he thought, take advantage of their superior size to ill-treat and annoy little Tom, or, as his father expressed it,
, "to punch ’un.” But the ploughman need have been under no fear as to the punching process, for what Tommy lacked in size he made up for in rapid growth, for
In four minutes he grew so fast
That he became as tall
And so she did him call. and what little Master Tom Thumb might come short of
in strength he made up for in cunning, and this latter quality made him a match for any urchin in the whole place.
There was a popular sport called cherry-stones, still played
at times by English youths, and which was immensely popular among them at the time of which we write.
Now, Master Tom used to play at cherry-stones with the village boys; and when he had lost all his property, he would creep into the bags of the fortunate winners, and steal his losings back again. But at last he was caught in the fact, which was a good thing ; for any boy, little or big, who does not play fairly or who takes what is not his own, deserves to be found out and punished, and, indeed, is sure to suffer sooner or later. Yet, his companions should not have been quite so hard with him. But they were rather glad of the chance of frightening the little man ;
and the owner of the bag from which he was filling his—an ugly, ill-natured boy—cried out, " Ah, Master Tom Thumb ! I've caught you at last! and now won't I give it you for thieving !” And he pulled the strings of the bag so tightly round Tom's neck as almost to strangle that unlucky young gentlenian. Look at the picture, and you will see him with his hair standing on end, and his mouth open, and his eyes starting almost out of his head with fright. But the boy let him
go after giving the bag a shake, which knocked all the cherry-stones against Tom's legs like so many pebbles, and bruised him sadly; and Tom ran home, rubbing his shins ruefully, and promising he would “play fair” next time. But the boys saved him all trouble in the matter, by refusing to play with him any more at all. And so may every little boy be served who cheats at play, say I.
The next scrape Tom got into was rather a serious one. His mother was one day making a batter pudding; and Tom, who was like a good many children I know-rather too fond of putting his little nose into what did not concern himclimbed to the edge of the bowl, to sce if his mother mixed it all right, and to remind her, if necessary, about such little matters as putting plenty of sugar into it; for Master Tom was rather nice and whimsical about what he ate. This time, however, he put his nose into the pudding a good deal closer than was at all agreeable to him ; for his foot slipped as he sat on the edge of the bowl, and he went into the batter head over heels; in fact, he took a plunge into it, as you may have seen a boy splash down into a swimming bath. The batter got into his mouth, so that he could not cry out; and he kicked and struggled so much, that he was presently covered with batter, and quite disappeared in the thick sticky pudding into which he had thus gone down head