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big as an island to her, and there she cannot escape us, and in the meantime we will make a house where you can both live when you are married.”
There were a great many water-lilies in the river, with their broad green leaves, which seemed to be floating on the top of the water, and the one which was the farthest out from the banks was also the largest. The old toad swam to this, and placed Little Thumb, with her walnut-shell,
When the little thing awoke in the morning, and saw where she was, she cried bitterly, for on all sides of her she could see nothing but water, and there was no way for her to get to land.
The old toad was very busy making her son's house in the marsh, for she wanted all to be very smart for the marriage. When the house was done, she and her ugly son swam out to the leaf where Little Thumb was, for she wanted to fetch the pretty walnut bed, to place it in the new house. The old toad bowed low to her, and said :
This is my son, who is to be your husband, and you and he will live grandly together, down below there, under the marsh."
Koar, koar, croak, croak," was all that the son
Then they took the pretty little bed and swam away with it, but Little Thumb sat all alone on the green leaf, and cried, for she could not bear the idea of living with the wretched old toad or having her ugly son for a husband.
The little fish that swam about in the rivers had heard all that the old toad had said, and thought what a great shame it would be for a sweet little creature like Little Thumb to marry the ugly son of the old toad. "No, that must never be," said they ; so they all came round the green leaf on which she stood, and bit off the stalk that bound it to the root, so that the leaf floated down the river far away, where the frogs could never reach it.
Little Thumb floated past many cities, and the little birds, as they sat in the bushes, saw her, and sang,
“What a sweet little girl!” The leaf went floating on and on, till she came into another country.
A pretty little white butterfly flitted round her, and at last settled down on the leaf, for Little Thumb pleased him. She was glad to think the toad could not now reach her; and the sun shining on the water made it look very beautiful all around.
Then came a large cockchafer and, seeing her, caught hold of her slender body with his claws, and flew away with her to a tree. The green leaf went on swimming down the river with the butterfly on it.
You may be sure Little Thumb was sadly frightened at being carried off by the cockchafer. But the cockchafer did not care a pin about that. He took her to one of the largest leaves of the tree, and gave her some honey to eat, and said she was a very pretty little thing, though not a bit like a cockchafer.
After a while, all the other cockchafers who lived in the tree came to look at her, and the young ladies said : “ What is there anyone can see to admire in her? why, she has only two legs; how absurd that looks !" "She has no feelers," said another; "and look how thin she is round the waist !” “And how ugly she is!” said all the young ladies at once.
Now Little Thumb was very pretty indeed, and the cockchafer who carried her off knew that well enough ; but as all the others said she was ugly he began himself to believe it, and would have nothing more to do with her; so he brought her down from the tree, and placed her on a daisy. There she sat and cried, because she was so ugly that even the cockchafers would have nothing to do with her; and yet she was the sweetest and prettiest little girl that any one can imagine.
All the summer, poor Little Thumb lived alone in a large forest. She made herself a bed of grass, and hung it up under a large burdock leaf to keep it from the rain. She ate the honey out of the flowers, and drank the dew that she found every morning on the leaves.
Summer and autumn passed away
in this manner well enough; but now the cold winter came, and what was she to do then ?
The birds that sang so sweetly all went away ; the flowers died; and the trees lost their leaves. The large burdock-leaf under which she had made her bed, shrunk up, and withered on its stalk. She was very cold, and her clothes were worn out, so that she was nearly starved to death. It began to snow, and she was so small that each flake seemed to threaten to cover her. She wrapped herself in a dry leaf, but that did not warm her, and she quite trembled with the cold.
She got out of the forest after a while, and came to a cornfield; but the corn had been taken away long ago, and only the dry, short stubble stood out of the frozen earth; but she was so small that that seemed to her like another forest. At length she reached the door of the field-mouse. There the mouse lived warm and well, having a whole room full of corn, and every comfort she could wish for. Poor Little Thumb knocked at the door, like any other beggar, and prayed for a bit of barley-corn, for she had not eaten a morsel of anything for two days.
"Poor little thing!" said the field-mouse. “Come into
my warm room, and dine with me." Now she was so pleased with Little Thumb, that she said, “You may stay here with me all the winter; but you must keep my room. neat and tidy, and tell me stories, which I like to hear.” Little Thumb did as the old mouse wished, and was kept very warm and cozy.
“We shall soon have a visitor," said the fieldmouse. My neighbour comes to see me once a week. He is better off than I am, has large rooms, and wears a most beautiful black coat. If you could only get him for a husband, you would be lucky. You must tell him the very prettiest stories that you know.”
But Little Thumb did not care at all to see this neighbour, for he was a mole.
He came, however, and paid his visit in his black fur coat. The field-mouse said he was very clever and very rich, and that his house was more than twenty times as large as hers. He was very learned, too, but he could not bear the sun and the beautiful flowers; and he could not say much about them, for he had never seen them.
Little Thumb sang to him, “ Lady-bird, ladybird, fly away home,” and “The frog, he would a-wooing go," and he fell in love with her on account of her sweet voice; but he said nothing, for he was a very prudent man.
He had lately dug himself a walk underground, from his own house to that of the field-mouse, in which he told the old mouse she and Little Thumb might walk any time they had a mind to take exercise. He told them not to be frightened at the dead bird which lay there.
The mole then took a piece of rotten wood in his mouth (for that shines in the dark like fire), and went on in front to light them in the long dark passage. In the middle of the walk they saw the dead bird, which was a swallow. Its beautiful wings were pressed close to its sides, and