A long time ago a little town of low huts stood in a tiny green valley at the foot of a cliff. The houses were out of reach of the highest tide which might be driven on shore by a west wind.
On the edge of the town was a pretty, looming tree. Half of its boughs hung over the huts and the other half over the deep sea right under the cliff, where big fishes came and splashed in the clear water. The branches of the tree were laden with fruit, and every day at sunrise a big grey monkey might be seen sitting in the topmost branches having his breakfast, and chattering to himself with delight.
After he had eaten all the fruit on the town side of the tree the monkey swung himself along the branches to the part which hung over the water. While he was looking out for a nice shady place where he might perch comfortably, he noticed a shark watching him from below with greedy eyes.
"Can I do anything for you?" asked the monkey politely.
"Oh! if you only would thrown me down some of those delicious things, I should be so grateful," answered the shark. "After you have lived on fish for fifty years you begin to feel you would like a change."
"Well, if you will open your mouth I will throw this beautiful juicy kuyu into it." As the monkey spoke, he pulled one off the branch just over his head and threw it down. The second time he hit and the fruit fell right in.
"Good!" cried the shark. "Another, please."
And the monkey grew tired of picking the kuyu long before the shark was tired of eating them.
"It is getting late, and I must be going home to my children," he said, at length, "but if you are here at the same time tomorrow I will give you another treat."
"Thank you," said the shark, showing all his great teeth as he grinned with delight; "you can't guess how happy you have made me," and he swam away into the shadows.
For weeks the monkey and the shark breakfasted together. They became fast friends, and told each other about their homes and families. By and by the monkey grew a bit discontented with his green house in a grove of palms beyond the town, and longed to see the strange things under the sea. The shark noted this clearly, and described greater and greater marvels till one day he said:
"All your kindness to me ... I have nothing to offer you at this place, but if you would only say yes to come home with me, I should give you anything you desire."
"Ah, good," cried the monkey. "How could I get there? Not by water. Ugh! I don't like to get wet."
"Don't let that trouble you," replied the shark, "on my back not a drop of water may touch you."
They agreed to go after breakfast next morning. The shark swam close up under the tree and the monkey dropped neatly on his back without any splash. After a few minutes the monkey began to enjoy himself a lot, and asked the shark a thousand questions.
The sun had risen and set twice when the shark suddenly said,
"Oh dear, here we are halfway. I think it is time to tell you something."
"What is it?" asked the monkey. "Nothing unpleasant, I hope, for you sound rather grave?"
"Oh, no! Shortly before we left I heard that the sultan of my country is very ill, and that the only thing to cure him is a monkey's heart."
"I am very sorry for him," replied the monkey. "What a pity you did not tell me while I was still on land. Then I would have brought my heart with me."
"Isn't your heart here?" said the shark, with a puzzled look.
"Oh, no, sir! When we monkeys leave home we always hang up our hearts on trees, in this way they won't get troublesome."
The monkey lied in such a calm, indifferent way that the shark began to wish he had not been in such a hurry.
"We had better turn back to the town, and then you can fetch it." he said.
"Well, it is such a long way; but you may be right," said the clever monkey.
"I am sure I am," answered the shark, and in another two days they caught sight of the kuyu tree hanging over the water.
With a sigh of relief the monkey caught hold of the nearest branch and swung himself up.
"Wait for me here," he called out to the shark. He went into the branches so that the shark could not see him, and lay down to have a nap.
"Are you there?" called the shark again and again, and in a sulky voice. Finally it woke up the monkey and he replied,
"I am here, but I wish you had not wakened me up now."
"What about fetching your heart? You CAN'T have forgotten!"
"Oh dear," said the monkey with a chuckle, "Did you really think anyone would say yes to giving up his heart? Far from it." And the monkey disappeared among the gem-green branches, and was gone.
Once, far away, a merchant had been so fortunate in all his undertakings that he was extremely rich. He could afford to let his six sons and six daughters have everything they fancied.
But through a series of mishaps he lost all his wealth and fell into the direst poverty, almost from riches to rags. All that he had left was a little house in a desolate place at least five hundred miles from the town he had lived in. He had to retreat to this house with his children. They were in despair at the idea of leading such a different life. The daughters at first hoped that their may friends would help them. But they soon found that they were left alone and that their former friends even said that their former lavish spending was to blame for their current misfortunes.
Thus, nothing was left for the sons and daughters but to leave town for the cottage in the middle of a dark forest. They were too poor to have any servants. Only the youngest, the clever and lovely Belle, tried to be brave. For that reason the others said that this miserable life was all she was fit for, but they were wrong.
After two years, when they were all beginning to get used to their new life, their father received the news that one of his ships, which he had believed was lost, had come safely into port with a rich cargo. All the sons and daughters at once thought that their poverty was at an end, and wanted to set out directly for the town. However, their father was more prudent, and begged them to wait a little. Though it was harvest time and he could ill be spared, he decided to go himself first to make inquiries.
All but the youngest daughter loaded their father with commissions for jewels and dresses which it would have taken a fortune to buy. But Belle did not ask for anything. Her father, noticing that she was silent, said: "And what shall I bring for you, Belle?"
"The only thing I wish for is to see you come home safely," she answered.
This only vexed her sisters. Her father, however, was pleased, but as he thought that at her age she certainly ought to like pretty presents, he told her to choose something.
"Well, dear father," she said, "as you insist on it, I'd rather that you bring me a rose. I haven't seen one since we came here, and I love them so much."
So the merchant set out and reached the town as quickly as possible, but only to find that his former companions, believing him to be dead, had divided between them the goods which the ship had brought. Thus, after six months of trouble and expense he found himself as poor as when he started; he had been able to recover only just enough to pay the cost of his journey.
To make matters worse for him, he was obliged to leave the town in the most terrible weather. By the time he was within a few miles of his home he was almost exhausted with cold and fatigue. He knew it would take some more hours to get through the forest, but he was so anxious to get home that he resolved to go on. Night overtook him, and deep snow and bitter frost made it impossible for his horse to carry him any further. Not a house was to be seen; the only shelter he could get was the hollow trunk of a great tree. There he crouched. The night felt very long. The howling of the wolves kept him awake. When at last the day broke, the falling snow had covered up every path, and he did not know which way to turn.
Finally he chose one direction. It soon became so rough and slippery that he fell down more than once, but then it became easier, and led him into an avenue of trees toward a splendid castle. It seemed very strange to the merchant that no snow had fallen in the avenue.
As no one was to be seen, he led his horse to the stable and fed it. Then the cold and weary merchant walked into the castle. Deep silence reigned everywhere. He stopped in a room that was smaller than the rest. A clear fire was burning and a couch was drawn up closely to it. Thinking that this must be prepared for someone who was expected, he sat down to wait till he should come, but very soon fell asleep.
Hunger woke him up after several hours. He was still alone, but a little table with a good dinner on it had been drawn up close to him. The merchant had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours, and lost no time in starting to eatl, hoping that he might soon have an opportunity of thanking for all the help he had been given. But no one appeared. When he woke up after another long sleep, a fresh meal of dainty cakes and fruit was prepared on the little table at his elbow. But the merchant saw no sign of anybody, The silence began to terrify him, and he resolved to search once more through all the rooms; but not even a servant was to be seen. There was no sign of life in the castle! He began to wonder what he should do. Then he went down into the garden, and though it was winter everywhere else, here the sun shone and the air was soft and sweet. The merchant said to himself:
"I will go this minute and bring my children to share all these delights."
Intending to saddle his horse and return home, he took a path that led to the stable. The path had a hedge of roses on each side. The merchant thought he had never seen or smelt such wonderful flowers. They reminded him of his promise to Belle, and he stopped and had just gathered one to take to her when he was startled by a strange noise behind him. Turning round, he saw a frightful beast. The beast seemed to be very angry and said in a terrible voice:
"Who let you gather my roses, to steal my flowers! It shall not go unpunished."
The merchant was terrified. He dropped the rose and cried on his knees: "Pardon me. Grateful for your hospitality, I could not imagine that taking a rose was too much."
But the beast's anger was not lessened by this speech.
"Excuses and flattery!" he cried; "But that won't save you from what you deserve. But what brought you here?"
"Alas!" said the merchant, and told his story, and did not forget to mention that Belle had hoped for just a rose, while "a king's ransom would hardly have sufficed for all that my other daughters asked. But I thought that I might at least take Belle her rose. I meant no harm."
The beast considered for a moment, and then he said in a less furious tone:
"I will forgive you if you give me one of your daughters. But if she comes at all she must come willingly. See if any of them loves you well enough to come here and save your life that way. You seem to be an honest man, so I will trust you to go home. I give you seven days. If neither of them is willing, you must come alone. Then you will belong to me. And if you fail to keep your word I will come and fetch you!" added the beast grimly.
The merchant accepted this. He did not really think any of his daughters could be persuaded to come, but at least he could settle his affairs in a week's time. He promised to return at the appointed time. The beast said:
"You can leave tomorrow. Then you will find a horse ready for you," he said. "Now go and eat your supper and wait for my orders."
The merchant went to his room. There a most delicious supper was already served on the little table which was drawn up before a blazing fire. The beast came in and told him prepare his daughter for what she had to expect.
"Don't get up tomorrow," he added, "till you see the sun and hear a golden bell ring. Then you will find your breakfast waiting for you here, and the horse you are to ride will be ready in the courtyard. He will also bring you back again when you come with your daughter a week from now. Farewell. Take a rose to your daughter Belle. Remember your promise!"
The merchant lay down till the sun rose. Then, after a hasty breakfast, he went to gather Belle's rose, and mounted his horse. He was still wrapped in gloomy thoughts when it stopped before the door of the cottage.
His sons and daughters, who had been very uneasy at his long absence, rushed to meet him, eager to know the result of his journey. He said sadly to Belle as he gave her the rose:
"Here is what you asked me to bring you; you little know what it has cost."
As he told of his adventures, the girls lamented loudly over their lost hopes, and the sons declared that their father should not return to that terrible castle, and began to make plans for killing the beast if it should come to fetch him. But he reminded them that he had promised to go back. Then the girls were very angry with Belle, and said it was all her fault, and that if she had asked for something sensible this would never have happened, and complained bitterly that they should have to suffer for her folly.
Poor Belle, much distressed, said to them:
"Who could have guessed that to ask for a rose in the middle of summer would cause so much misery? I will go back with my father to keep his promise."
Belle was firm. She divided all her little possessions between her sisters, said goodbye to everything she loved, and encouraged and cheered her father as they mounted together the horse which had brought him back. It seemed to fly rather than gallop. If Belle had not feared what might happen to her. she might have enjoyed the ride. They reached the avenue of trees. Music sounded softly from the courtyard.
"The beast must be very hungry," said Belle, trying to laugh, "if he makes all this rejoicing because his prey comes.
The horse stopped at the foot of the flight of steps leading to the terrace. When they had dismounted her father led her to the little room he had been in before. There they found a splendid fire burning, and the table daintily spread with a delicious supper.
The merchant knew that this was meant for them, and Belle, who was rather less frightened now that she had passed through so many rooms and seen nothing of the beast, was quite willing to begin, for her long ride had made her very hungry. But they had hardly finished their meal when the noise of the beast's footsteps was heard approaching. Belle clung to her father in terror, but when the beast appeared, she made a great effort to hide her terror, and greeted him respectfully. "Good-evening, beast," she said.
This pleased the beast. "Have you come willingly?" he asked.
Belle answered bravely that it was so.
"I am pleased," said the beast. "you may stay." He turned to the merchant with, "But you must leave at sunrise tomorrow and never expect to see my castle again."
Then turning to Belle, he said:
"Take your father into the next room, and help him to choose everything you think your brothers and sisters would like to have. You will find two travelling-trunks there; fill them as you will. It is only just that you should send them something very precious to remember you by."
Then he went away, after saying "goodbye for now" to them.
Belle and her father went into the next room and were greatly surprised at the riches in it. There were splendid dresses and gorgeous jewels. Belle chose many dresses and jewels for her sisters and put it in one of the chests. Wjhen she opened the last chest, they found it was full of gold.
She said, "I think the gold will be useful to you and my brothers. Let us fasten the trunks well and leave them ready."
Afterwards they found breakfast ready in their little room. The merchant ate his with a good appetite and left. The beast's generosity made him believe that he might perhaps venture to come back soon and see Belle.
Belle was left, and felt very sleepy after being up all night. She lay down and at once fell asleep. She dreamed that she was walking by a brook bordered with trees when a young prince came and said to her, "Belle! you are not so unfortunate - only try to find me out. In making me happy you will find your own happiness. Be true-hearted, and we shall have nothing left to wish for."
"What can I do to make you happy?" asked Belle in the dream.
"Only be grateful and don't trust too much to your eyes. And don't desert me till you have saved me from a cruel misery."
Belle found her dream so interesting that she was in no hurry to wake up, but the clock roused her. Then she got up and found her dressing-table set out with everything she could possibly want. And when her toilet was finished she found dinner was waiting in the room next to hers. Dinner does not take very long when you are all by yourself, so very soon she sat down cosily in the corner of a sofa and began to think about the prince she had seen in her dream.
"He said I could make him happy," said Belle to herself. "But, after all, it was only a dream. I had better go and find something to do to amuse myself."
She got up and began to explore some of the many rooms of the castle.
The first she entered was lined with mirrors, and Belle saw herself reflected on every side. A bracelet was hanging from a chandelier there caught her eye. On taking it down she found a portrait of the prince inside it - just as she had seen him in her dream. With great delight she slipped the bracelet on her arm and went on into a gallery of pictures. There she soon found a portrait of the same prince, as large as life. Tearing herself away from the portrait she passed through into a room with musical instruments in it. She tried some of them. The next room was a library with many shelves of books in it.
By this time it was growing dusk. Belle found her supper served, although she did not see anyone or hear a sound. After a little she heard the beast coming. He said gruffly:
"Good evening, Belle." When he asked her how she had been been, she told him of the rooms she had seen.
Then he asked if she thought she could like living in his castle. Belle answered that everything was so beautiful that she would be very hard to please if not. After about an hour's talk Belle began to think that the beast was not nearly so terrible as she had supposed at first. Then he got up to leave her, and said in his gruff voice:
"Do you love me, Belle? Will you marry me?"
"Oh!" cried Belle.
"Say 'yes' or 'no' without fear," he answered.
"Well, no," said Belle hastily.
"Since you won't, good-night, Belle," he said.
And she answered, "Good-night, beast." She was very glad that her refusal had not provoked him. After he was gone she was very soon in bed and asleep, and dreaming again of the prince she had dreamed of before. She thought he came and said to her:
"Ah, Belle! why are you so unkind to me? I fear I'm fated to be unhappy for many a long day still."
Then her dreams changed, but the charming prince figured in them all. When morning came her first thought was to look at the portrait and see if it was really like him. It certainly was.
This morning she decided to go into the garden. The sun was shining, and all the fountains were playing. After a while she came to a brook. Myrtle trees were growing next to it. It looked exactly like the place where she had first met the prince in her dreams.
When she was tired she went back to the castle. There she found a new room full of materials for every kind of work. Then there was an aviary full of rare birds. They were so tame that they flew to Belle as soon as they saw her and perched on her shoulders and her head.
"Pretty little creatures," she said, "If your cage was nearer to my room, I might often hear you sing!
So saying she opened a door, and found that it led into her own room.
There were more birds in a room farther on, parrots and cockatoos that could talk. She took one or two back to her room. They talked to her while she was at supper. After supper the beast visited her and asked her if she loved him and would marry him. She said no as before, and then with a gruff "good-night" he left, and Belle went to bed and dreamed of the prince.
The days passed swiftly. After a while Belle found a room in the castle. Under each of its windows stood a very comfortable chair. When she sat down in one of the chairs and looked through the window, some entertainment might be seen, so Belle did not feel all lonely. It would otherwise have been a major problem.
Every evening after supper the beast came to see her and ask:
"Belle, will you marry me?"
She repeatedly declined each time. Her happy dreams of the prince made her forget the beast. The only thing that disturbed her was that in her dreams she was steadily told to distrust appearances, to let her heart guide her, and other things she could not understand.
Things went on in this way for a long time, until Belle began to long to see her father and her brothers and sisters. One night, seeing her looked sad, the beast asked her what was the matter. Belle was not much afraid of him by then. He was really gentle in spite of his ferocious looks and his dreadful voice. So she answered that she was longing to see her home once more.
On hearing this the beast seemed distressed:.
"Ah! Belle, have you the heart to desert me like this?"
"No, dear beast," answered Belle softly, "I should be very sorry if I never saw you any more, but I long to see my father again. Only let me go for two months: I promise to come back to you and stay for the rest of my life."
The beast sighed:
"I can hardly refuse you anything you ask even though it should cost me my life. Take the four boxes you will find in the room next to your own. Fill them with everything you wish to take with you. But remember to come back when the two months are over. If you don't come in good time you may find me dead. You won't need any chariot to bring you back. Only say goodbye to all your brothers and sisters the night before you come away, and when you have gone to bed turn this ring round on your finger and say firmly: 'I wish to go back to my castle and see my beast again.' Good night, Belle. Before long you shall see your father once more."
As soon as Belle was alone she filled the boxes with precious things until she was tired of heaping things into them. Then she went to bed and began to dream of her prince again. She was grieved to see him stretched on a grassy bank, sad and weary.
"What is the matter?" she cried in her dream.
He looked at her, saying, "Are you not leaving me to my death perhaps?"
Belle cried in her dream: "I'm only going to assure my father that I'm safe and happy, and then come back."
Just then a strange sound woke her – and she found herself in a room she had never seen before. Where could she be? She got up and dressed hastily, and then saw that the boxes she had packed the night before were in the room.
While she was wondering she suddenly heard her father's voice, and rushed out and greeted him joyfully. Her brothers and sisters were all astonished to see her. When she told them that she had come to be with them for a short time only, and then go back to the beast's castle, they lamented loudly.
In good time Belle asked her father what he thought could be the meaning of her strange dreams, and he pondered, "My girl, maybe you ought to reward the beast by doing as he wishes you to, even though he looks so ugly."
Belle did not feel inclined to marry the beast, however. For two months she did not have to decide either, but could enjoy herself with her sisters. They were rich now, and lived in town again, and had plenty of acquaintances. Still, Belle often thought of the castle where she was so happy.
Her sisters seemed to have got quite used to being without her, and even found her rather in the way, but her father and brothers, who begged her to stay. They seemed so grieved at the thought of her leaving them that she did not have the courage to say goodbye to them when her two months at home had passed. She put off saying goodbye again and again, till at last she had a dream that helped her to make up her mind. In the dream she was wandering in a lonely path in the castle gardens when she heard groans. They seemed to come from some bushes hiding the entrance of a cave. She ran quickly to see what could be the matter and found the beast stretched out on his side, apparently dying. At the same moment a stately lady appeared and said gravely:
"Belle, you're only just in time to save his life. If you had delayed one day more, you would have found him dead."
Belle was so terrified by this dream that the next morning she told her family that she would go back to the castle at once. That very night she said goodbye to her father and all her brothers and sisters. As soon as she was in bed she turned her ring round on her finger, and said firmly, "I wish to go back to my castle and see my beast again."
Then she fell asleep at once. When she woke up she was in the castle once more. Everything was just as before. Belle was so anxious to see the beast again that she felt as if suppertime would never come.
The time came, but no beast showed up. Then she was frightened. Remembering her last dream, she soon ran down into the garden to search for him. Up and down the paths and avenues she ran and called for the beast. At last she stopped for a minute's rest. Then she noticed that she was standing opposite the shady path she had seen in her dream. She rushed down it, and, sure enough, there was the cav. In it lay the beast. She ran up and stroked his head, but he did not move or open his eyes.
"Oh! If he is dead it is all my fault," said Belle, crying bitterly.
But then she looked closely at him and found he was still breathing. Hastily she fetched some water from the nearest fountain, sprinkled it over his face, and he began to revive.
She cried. "I feared I was too late to save your life."
"Belle, you came in the nick of in time. I thought you had forgotten your promise. Go now and rest. I shall see you again by and by."
Belle had half expected that he would be angry with her, but was reassured by his gentle voice and went back to the castle. There supper was awaiting her. Afterward the beast came in as usual, and they talked about the time she had spent with her father. He asked if she had enjoyed herself, and if they had all been very glad to see her.
Belle enjoyed telling him what had happened to her. When at last the time came for him to go, he asked, as he had so often asked before, "Belle, will you marry me?"
She answered, "Yes."
As she spoke a blaze of light sprang up before the windows and across the avenue of trees, fire-flies arranged themselves into: "Long live the prince and his bride."
Turning to ask the beast what it could all mean, Belle found that he had disappeared, and in his place stood her dream-prince! At the same moment the wheels of a chariot on the terrace were heard, and two ladies entered the room. One of them was the stately lady that Belle had seen in her dreams. Belle hardly knew which to greet first.
But the one she already knew said to her companion:
"Well, queen, this is Belle. She had what it took to rescue your son from the terrible enchantment. They love one another. What is is wanting to make them perfectly happy is your consent to their marriage."
"With all my heart!" cried the queen. "How can I ever thank you enough, Belle, for having helped my dear son to his natural form?"
She tenderly embraced Belle and the prince, who had meanwhile greeted the other lady - his godmother fairy - and been congratulated by her.
"Now," said the fairy to Belle, "I suppose you would like me to send for all your brothers and sisters to dance at your wedding?"
She did, and the marriage was celebrated the very next day with the utmost splendour, and Belle and the prince lived happily together since.
There was once a man and his wife fagot-makers by trade, who had several children, all boys. The eldest was but ten years old, and the youngest only seven.
They were very poor, and their seven children incommoded them greatly, because not one of them was able to earn his bread. That which gave them yet more uneasiness was that the youngest was of a very puny constitution, and scarce ever spoke a word, which made them take that for stupidity which was a sign of good sense. He was very little, and when born no bigger than one's thumb, which made him be called Little Thumb.
The poor child bore the blame of whatsoever was done amiss in the house, and, guilty or not, was always in the wrong; he was, notwithstanding, more cunning and had a far greater share of wisdom than all his brothers put together; and, if he spoke little, he heard and thought the more.
There happened now to come a very bad year, and the famine was so great that these poor people resolved to rid themselves of their children. One evening, when they were all in bed and the fagot-maker was sitting with his wife at the fire, he said to her, with his heart ready to burst with grief:
"You see plainly that we're not able to keep our children, and I can't see them starve to death before my face; I'm resolved to lose them in the wood tomorrow, which may very easily be done; for, while they are busy in tying up fagots, we may run away, and leave them, without their taking any notice."
"Ah!" cried his wife; "and can you yourself have the heart to take your children out along with you on purpose to lose them?"
In vain did her husband represent to her their extreme poverty: she would not consent to it; she was indeed poor, but she was their mother. However, having considered what a grief it would be to her to see them perish with hunger, she at last consented, and went to bed all in tears.
Little Thumb heard every word that had been spoken; for observing, as he lay in his bed, that they were talking very busily, he got up softly, and hid himself under his father's stool, that he might hear what they said without being seen. He went to bed again, but did not sleep a wink all the rest of the night, thinking on what he had to do. He got up early in the morning, and went to the river-side, where he filled his pockets full of small white pebbles, and then returned home.
They all went abroad, but Little Thumb never told his brothers one syllable of what he knew. They went into a very thick forest, where they could not another at ten paces distance. The fagot-maker began to cut wood, and the children to gather up the sticks to make fagots. Their father and mother, seeing them busy at their work, got away from them insensibly, and ran away from them all at once, along a by-way through the winding bushes.
When the children saw they were left alone, they began to cry as loud as they could. Little Thumb let them cry on, knowing very well how to get home again, for, as he came, he took care to drop all along the way the little white pebbles he had in his pockets. Then he said to them:
"Don't be afraid, brothers; father and mother have left us here, but I will lead you home again, only follow me."
They did so, and he brought them home by the very same way they came into the forest. They dared not go in, but sat themselves down at the door, listening to what their father and mother were saying.
The very moment the fagot-maker and his wife reached home the lord of the manor sent them ten crowns, which he had owed them a long while, and which they never expected. This gave them new life, for the poor people were almost famished. The fagot-maker sent his wife immediately to the butcher's. As it was a long while since they had eaten a bit, she bought thrice as much meat as would sup two people. When they had eaten, the woman said:
"Alas! where are now our poor children? they would make a good feast of what we have left here; but it was you, William, who had a mind to lose them: I told you we should repent of it. What are they now doing in the forest? Alas! dear God, the wolves have perhaps already eaten them up; you art very inhuman thus to have lost your children."
The fagot-maker grew at last quite out of patience, for she repeated it above twenty times, that they should repent of it, and that she was in the right of it for so saying. He threatened to beat her if she did not hold her tongue. It was not that the fagot-maker was not, perhaps, more vexed than his wife, but that she teased him, and that he was of the humor of a great many others, who love wives to speak well, but think those very importunate who are continually doing so. She was half-drowned in tears, crying out:
"Alas! where are now my children, my poor children?"
She spoke this so very loud that the children, who were at the gate, began to cry out all together:
"Here we are! Here we are!"
She ran immediately to open the door, and said, hugging them:
"I'm glad to see you, my dear children; you're very hungry and weary; and my poor Peter, you art horribly bemired; come in and let me clean you."
Now, you must know that Peter was her eldest son, whom she loved above all the rest, because he was somewhat carroty, as she herself was. They sat down to supper, and ate with such a good appetite as pleased both father and mother, whom they acquainted how frightened they were in the forest, speaking almost always all together. The good folks were extremely glad to see their children once more at home, and this joy continued while the ten crowns lasted; but, when the money was all gone, they fell again into their former uneasiness, and resolved to lose them again; and, that they might be the surer of doing it, to carry them to a much greater distance than before.
They could not talk of this so secretly but they were overheard by Little Thumb, who made account to get out of this difficulty as well as the former; but, though he got up very early in the morning to go and pick up some little pebbles, he was disappointed, for he found the house- door double-locked, and was at a stand what to do. When their father had given each of them a piece of bread for their breakfast, Little Thumb fancied he might make use of this instead of the pebbles by throwing it in little bits all along the way they should pass; and so he put the bread in his pocket.
Their father and mother brought them into the thickest and most obscure part of the forest, when, stealing away into a by-path, they there left them. Little Thumb was not very uneasy at it, for he thought he could easily find the way again by means of his bread, which he had scattered all along as he came; but he was very much surprised when he could not find so much as one crumb; the birds had come and had eaten it up, every bit. They were now in great affliction, for the farther they went the more they were out of their way, and were more and more bewildered in the forest.
Night now came on, and there arose a terribly high wind, which made them dreadfully afraid. They fancied they heard on every side of them the howling of wolves coming to eat them up. They scarce dared to speak or turn their heads. After this, it rained very hard, which wetted them to the skin; their feet slipped at every step they took, and they fell into the mire, whence they got up in a very dirty pickle; their hands were quite benumbed.
Little Thumb climbed up to the top of a tree, to see if he could discover anything; and having turned his head about on every side, he saw at last a glimmering light, like that of a candle, but a long way from the forest. He came down, and, when on the ground, he could see it no more, which grieved him sadly. However, having walked for some time with his brothers toward that side on which he had seen the light, he perceived it again as he came out of the wood.
They came at last to the house where this candle was, not without an abundance of fear: for very often they lost sight of it, which happened every time they came into a bottom. They knocked at the door, and a good woman came and opened it; she asked them what they would have.
Little Thumb told her they were poor children who had been lost in the forest, and desired to lodge there for God's sake.
The woman, seeing them so very pretty, began to weep, and said to them:
"Alas! poor babies; whither are ye come? Do ye know that this house belongs to a cruel ogre who eats up little children?"
"Ah! dear madam," answered Little Thumb (who trembled every joint of him, as well as his brothers), "what shall we do? To be sure the wolves of the forest will devour us tonight if you refuse us to lie here; and so we would rather the gentleman should eat us; and perhaps he may take pity on us, especially if you please to beg it of him."
The ogre's wife, who believed she could conceal them from her husband till morning, let them come in, and brought them to warm themselves at a very good fire; for there was a whole sheep on the spit, roasting for the ogre's supper.
As they began to be a little warm they heard three or four great raps at the door; this was the ogre, who had come home. On this she hid them under the bed and went to open the door. The ogre presently asked if supper was ready and the wine drawn, and then sat himself down to table. The sheep was as yet all raw and bloody; but he liked it the better for that. He sniffed about to the right and left, saying:
"I smell fresh meat."
"What you smell so," said his wife, "must be the calf which I've just now killed and flayed."
"I smell fresh meat, I tell you once more," replied the ogre, looking crossly at his wife; "and there is something here which I don't understand."
As he spoke these words he got up from the table and went directly to the bed.
"Ah, ah!" said he; "I see then how you would cheat me, you cursed woman; I know not why I don't eat you up too, but it's well for you that you are a tough old carrion. Here is good game, which comes very quickly to entertain three ogres of my acquaintance who are to pay me a visit in a day or two."
With that he dragged them out from under the bed one by one. The poor children fell on their knees, and begged his pardon; but they had to do with one of the most cruel ogres in the world, who, far from having any pity on them, had already devoured them with his eyes, and told his wife they would be delicate eating when tossed up with good savoury sauce. He then took a great knife, and, coming up to these poor children, whetted it on a great whet-stone which he held in his left hand. He had already taken hold of one of them when his wife said to him:
"Why need you do it now? Isn't it time enough tomorrow?"
"Hold your prating," said the ogre; "they will eat the tenderer."
"But you have so much meat already," replied his wife, you have no occasion; here are a calf, two sheep, and half a hog."
"That's true," said the ogre; "give them their belly full that they may not fall away, and put them to bed."
The good woman was overjoyed at this, and gave them a good supper; but they were so much afraid they could not eat a bit. As for the ogre, he sat down again to drink, being highly pleased that he had got wherewithal to treat his friends. He drank a dozen glasses more than ordinary, which got up into his head and obliged him to go to bed.
The ogre had seven daughters, all little children, and these young ogresses had all of them very fine complexions, because they used to eat fresh meat like their father; but they had little grey eyes, quite round, hooked noses, and very long sharp teeth, standing at a good distance from each other. They were not as yet over and above mischievous, but they promised very fair for it, for they had already bitten little children, that they might suck their blood.
They had been put to bed early, with every one a crown of gold on her head. There was in the same chamber a bed of the like bigness, and it was into this bed the ogre's wife put the seven little boys, after which she went to bed to her husband.
Little Thumb, who had observed that the ogre's daughters had crowns of gold on their heads, and was afraid lest the ogre should repent his not killing them, got up about midnight, and, taking his brothers' bonnets and his own, went very softly and put them on the heads of the seven little ogresses, after having taken off their crowns of gold, which he put on his own head and his brothers', that the ogre might take them for his daughters, and his daughters for the little boys whom he wanted to kill.
All this succeeded according to his desire; for, the ogre waking about midnight, and sorry that he deferred to do that till morning which he might have done over-night, threw himself hastily out of bed, and, taking his great knife,
"Let's see," said he, "how our little rogues do, and not make two jobs of the matter."
He then went up, groping all the way, into his daughters' chamber, and, coming to the bed where the little boys lay, and who were every soul of them fast asleep, except Little Thumb, who was terribly afraid when he found the ogre fumbling about his head, as he had done about his brothers', the ogre, feeling the golden crowns, said:
"I should have made a fine piece of work of it, truly; I find I drank too much last night."
Then he went to the bed where the girls lay; and, having found the boys' little bonnets,
"Ah!" said he, "my merry lads, are you there? Let's work as we ought."
And saying these words, without more ado, he cut the throats of all his seven daughters.
Well pleased with what he had done, he went to bed again to his wife. So soon as Little Thumb heard the ogre snore, he waked his brothers, and bade them all put on their clothes presently and follow him. They stole down softly into the garden, and got over the wall. They kept running about all night, and trembled all the while, without knowing which way they went.
The ogre, when he awoke, said to his wife: "Go upstairs and dress those young rascals who came here last night."
The wife was very much surprised at this goodness of her husband, not dreaming after what manner she should dress them; but, thinking that he had ordered her to go and put on their clothes, she went up, and was strangely astonished when she perceived her seven daughters killed, and weltering in their blood.
She fainted away, for this is the first expedient almost all women find in such cases. The ogre, fearing his wife would be too long in doing what he had ordered, went up himself to help her. He was no less amazed than his wife at this frightful spectacle.
"Ah! what have I done?" cried he. "The wretches shall pay for it, and that instantly."
He threw a pitcher of water on his wife's face, and, having brought her to herself, said:
"Give me quickly my boots of seven leagues, that I may go and catch them."
He went out, and, having run over a vast deal of ground, both on this side and that, he came at last into the very road where the poor children were, and not above a hundred paces from their father's house. They espied the ogre, who went at one step from mountain to mountain, and over rivers as easily as the narrowest kennels. Little Thumb, seeing a hollow rock near the place where they were, made his brothers hide themselves in it, and crowded into it himself, minding always what would become of the ogre.
The ogre, who found himself much tired with his long and fruitless journey (for these boots of seven leagues greatly fatigued the wearer), had a great mind to rest himself, and, by chance, went to sit down on the rock where the little boys had hid themselves. As it was impossible he could be more weary than he was, he fell asleep, and, after reposing himself some time, began to snore so frightfully that the poor children were no less afraid of him than when he held up his great knife and was going to cut their throats. Little Thumb was not so much frightened as his brothers, and told them that they should run away immediately toward home while the ogre was asleep so soundly, and that they should not be in any pain about him. They took his advice, and got home presently. Little Thumb came up to the ogre, pulled off his boots gently and put them on his own legs. The boots were very long and large, but, as they were fairies, they had the gift of becoming big and little, according to the legs of those who wore them; so that they fitted his feet and legs as well as if they had been made on purpose for him. He went immediately to the ogre's house, where he saw his wife crying bitterly for the loss of the ogre's murdered daughters.
"Your husband," said Little Thumb, "is in very great danger, being taken by a gang of thieves, who have sworn to kill him if he does not give them all his gold and silver. The very moment they held their daggers at his throat he perceived me, and desired me to come and tell you the condition he is in, and that you should give me whatsoever he has of value, without retaining anyone thing; for otherwise they will kill him without mercy; and, as his case is very pressing, he desired me to make use (you see I've them on) of his boots, that I might make the more haste and to show you that I don't impose on you.
The good woman, being sadly frightened, gave him all she had: for this ogre was a very good husband, though he used to eat up little children. Little Thumb, having thus got all the ogre's money, came home to his father's house, where he was received with abundance of joy.
There are many people who don't agree in this circumstance, and pretend that Little Thumb never robbed the ogre at all, and that he only thought he might very justly, and with a safe conscience, take off his boots of seven leagues, because he made no other use of them but to run after little children. These folks affirm that they are very well assured of this, and the more as having drunk and eaten often at the fagot-maker's house. They aver that when Little Thumb had taken off the ogre's boots he went to Court, where he was informed that they were very much in pain about a certain army, which was two hundred leagues off, and the success of a battle. He went, say they, to the king, and told him that, if he desired it, he would bring him news from the army before night.
The king promised him a great sum of money on that condition. Little Thumb was as good as his word, and returned that very same night with the news; and, this first expedition causing him to be known, he got whatever he pleased, for the king paid him very well for carrying his orders to the army. After having for some time carried on the business of a messenger, and gained thereby great wealth, he went home to his father, where it was impossible to express the joy they were all in at his return. He made the whole family very easy, bought places for his father and brothers, and, by that means, settled them very handsomely in the world, and, in the meantime, made his court to perfection.
[Charles Perrault - #5.1]