Short Stories » Hop-O'-My-Thumb

Hop-O'-My-Thumb - Page 2 of 3

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.

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