|The Book of Fables and Folk Stories|
|by Horace Elisha Scudder|
|A choice collection of old folk tales and fables, attractively arranged and illustrated. Between each of the longer tales appear several short fables, offering a varied reading experience for the young reader for whom it is intended. Ages 6-9 |
TOM IS SOLD FOR A BARGAIN
A POOR woodman once sat by the fire in his cottage, and
his wife sat by his side,
"How lonely it is," said he, "for you and me to sit
here by ourselves without any children
to play about and amuse us."
"What you say is very true," said his wife, as she
turned her wheel. "How happy should I
be, if I had but one child. If it were ever so small,
if it were no bigger than my thumb, I
should be very happy and love it dearly."
Now it came to pass that the good woman had her wish,
for some time afterward she had
 a little boy who was healthy and strong, but not much
bigger than her thumb. So they
"Well, we cannot say we have not got what we wished
for, and, little as he is, we will
love him dearly!" and they called him Tom Thumb. They
gave him plenty to eat, yet he
never grew bigger. Still his eyes were sharp and
sparkling, and he soon showed himself
to be a bright little fellow, who always knew what he
One day the woodman was getting ready to go into the
wood to cut fuel, and he said:—
"I wish I had some one to bring the cart after me, for
I want to make haste."
"O father," cried Tom, "I will take care of that. The
cart shall be in the wood by the time
you want it." The woodman laughed and said:
"How can that be? You cannot reach up to the horse's
"Never mind that, father. If my mother will only
harness the horse, I will get into his ear,
and tell him which way to go."
"Well," said the father, "we will try for once."
When the time came, the mother harnessed the horse to
the cart, and put Tom into his ear.
There the little man sat and told the beast how to go,
crying out, "Go on," and "Stop," as
 wanted. So the horse went on just as if the woodman
were driving it himself.
It happened that the horse fell to trotting too fast,
and Tom called out, "Gently, gently."
Just then two strangers came up.
"How odd it is," one of them said. "There is a cart
going along, and I hear a carter talking
to the horse, but I see no one."
"That is strange," said the other. "Let us follow the
cart and see where it goes." They
went on into the wood, and came at last to the place
where the woodman was. The cart
drove up and Tom said:—
"See, father, here I am with the cart, safe and sound.
Now, take me down."
So his father took hold of the horse with one hand, and
lifted his son down with the other.
He put him on a little stick, where he was as merry as
you please. The two strangers
looked on and saw it all, and did not know what to say
for wonder. At last one took the
other aside and said:—
"That little chap will make our fortune if we can get
him, and carry him about from town
to town as a show. We must buy him." Then they went
to the woodman and asked him
what he would take for the little man. "He will
better off with us than with you," they
"I'll not sell him at all," said the father. "My own
flesh and blood is dearer to me than all
the silver and gold in the world."
But Tom heard what was said, and crept up his
coat to his shoulder, and spoke in
"Take the money, father, and let them have me. I'll
soon come back to you." So the
woodman at last agreed to sell Tom Thumb to the
strangers for a large piece of gold.
"Where do you like to sit?" one of them asked Tom.
"Oh, put me on the rim of your hat; that will be a nice
place for me. I can walk about
there and see the country as we go along."
They did as he wished. Tom took leave of his father,
and went off with the two strangers.
They kept on their way till it began to grow dark.
Then Tom said:—
"Let me get down, I am tired." So the man took off his
hat, and set him down on a lump
of earth in a ploughed field, by the side of the road.
But Tom ran about among the
furrows, and at last slipped into an old mouse-hole.
"Good-night, masters. I'm off," said he.
 "Look sharp
after me next time." They ran to
the place and poked the ends of their sticks into the
mouse-hole, but all in vain. Tom
crawled farther in. They could not get him, and as it
was now quite dark they went away
HOW TOM FRIGHTENED THE THIEVES
WHEN Tom found they were gone, he crept out of his
"How dangerous it is," said he, "to walk about in this
ploughed field. If I were to fall
from one of those big lumps I should surely break my
neck." At last, he found a large,
"This is lucky," said he. "I can sleep here very
well," and in he crept. Just as he was
falling asleep he heard two men pass by, and one said
to the other:—
"How shall we manage to steal that rich farmer's silver
"I'll tell you!" cried Tom.
"What noise was that? I am sure I heard some one
speak," said the thief. He was in a
great fright. They both stood listening, and Tom spoke
 "Take me with you, and I will show you how to get the
"But where are you?"
"Look about on the ground, and listen where the sound
"What a little chap! What can you do for us?"
"Why, I can get between the iron window bars, and throw
you out whatever you want."
"That is a good thought. Come along; we will see what
you can do."
When they came to the farmer's house, Tom slipped
through the bars into the room, and
then called as loud as he could:—
"Will you have all that there is here?"
"Softly, softly!" said the thieves. "Speak low, or you
will wake somebody."
Tom made as if he did not understand them, and bawled
"How much will you have? Shall I throw it all out?"
Now the cook lay in the next room, and hearing a noise,
she raised herself in her bed and
listened. But the thieves had been thrown into a
fright and had run away. By and by they
plucked up courage, and said:—
 "That little fellow is only trying to make fools of
us." So they came back and spoke low
to him, saying: "Now let us have no more of your jokes,
but throw out some of the
money." Then Tom called out again as loud as he could:—
"Very well! Hold your hands; here it comes."
The cook heard this plainly; she sprang out of bed, and
ran to open the door. The thieves
were off as if a wolf were after them, and the cook
could see nothing in the dark. So she
went back for a light, and while she was gone, Tom
slipped off into the barn.
The cook looked about and searched every hole and
corner, but found nobody; she went
back to bed, and thought she must have been dreaming
with her eyes open. Tom crawled
about in the hayloft, and at last found a good place to
rest in. He meant to sleep till
daylight, and then find his way home to his father and
INSIDE A COW
POOR Tom Thumb! his troubles were only begun. The cook
got up early to feed the
cows. She went straight to the hayloft, and carried
 away a large bundle of hay, with the
little man in the middle of it fast asleep. He slept
on, and did not wake till he found
himself in the mouth of a cow. She had taken him up
with a mouthful of hay.
"Dear me," said he, "how did I manage to tumble into the
mill?" But he soon found out
where he was, and he had to keep all his wits about
him, or he would have fallen between
the cow's teeth, and then he would have been crushed to
death. At last he went down into
"It is rather dark here," said he; "they forgot to
build windows in this room to let the sun
in." He made the best of his bad luck, but he did not
like his resting-place at all. The
worst of it was, that more and more hay was coming
down, and there was less and less
room to turn around in. At last he cried out as loud
as he could:—
"Don't bring me any more hay! don't bring me any more
hay!" The cook just then was
milking the cow. She heard some one speak, but she saw
nobody. Yet she was sure it
was the same voice she had heard in the night. It put
her into such a fright that she fell
off her stool and upset her milk-pail. She ran
 off as
fast as she could to the farmer, and
"Sir, sir, the cow is talking." But the farmer said:—
"Woman, thou art surely mad." Still, he went with her
into the cow-house, to see what
was the matter. Just as they went in, Tom cried out
"Don't bring me any more hay! don't bring me any more
hay!" Then the farmer was in a
fright. He was sure the cow must be mad, so he gave
orders to have her killed at once.
The cow was killed, and the stomach with Tom in it was
thrown into the barnyard.
SAFE AT HOME AGAIN
TOM soon set himself to work to get out, and that was
not a very easy task. A hungry
wolf was prowling about. Just as Tom had made room to
get his head out the wolf seized
the stomach and swallowed it. Off he ran, but Tom was
not cast down. He began to chat
with the wolf, and called out:—
"My good friend, I can show you a famous treat."
 "Where is that?"
"In the house near the wood. You can crawl through the
drain into the kitchen, and there
you will find cakes, ham, beef, and everything that is
nice." This was the house where
Tom Thumb lived. The wolf did not need to be asked
twice. That very night he went to
the house and crawled through the drain into the
kitchen. There he ate and drank to his
After a while he had eaten so much that he was ready to
go away. But now he could not
squeeze through the drain. This was just what Tom had
thought of, and the little chap set
up a great shout.
"Will you be quiet?" said the wolf. "You will wake
everybody in the house."
"What is that to me?" said the little man. "You have
had your frolic; now I have a mind
to be merry myself." And he began again to sing and
shout as loud as he could.
The woodman and his wife were awakened by the noise,
and peeped through a crack into
the kitchen. When they saw a wolf there, they were in
a great fright. The woodman ran
for his axe, and gave his wife a scythe.
"You stay behind," said the woodman.
 "When I have
knocked the wolf on the head, you
run at him with the scythe." Tom heard all this and
"Father! father! I am here. The wolf has swallowed
"Heaven be praised!" said the woodman. "We have found
our dear child again. Do not
use the scythe, wife, for you may hurt him." Then he
aimed a great blow, and struck the
wolf on the head, and killed him at once. They opened
him, and set Tom Thumb free.
"Ah!" said his father, "what fears we have had for
"Yes, father," he answered. "I have traveled all over
the world since we parted, and now
I am very glad to get fresh air again."
"Where have you been?"
"I have been in a mouse-hole, in a snail-shell, down a
cow's throat, and inside the wolf,
and yet here I am again, safe and sound."
"Well, well," said his father. "We will not sell you
again for all the riches in the world."
So they hugged and kissed their dear little son, and
gave him plenty to eat and drink.
And they bought him new clothes, for his old ones had
been quite spoiled on his journey.
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