Once upon a time...
There was a man and his wife， fagot-makers by trade， who had several children， all boys. The eldest1 was but ten years old， and the youngest only seven.
They were very poor， them greatly， 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 puny2 constitution， and scarce ever spoke3 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 whatsoever4， 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 spake little， he heard and thought the more.
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:
"Thou seest plainly that we are not able to keep our children， and I cannot see them starve to death before my face; I am resolved to lose them in the wood to-morrow， which may very easily be done; for， in tying up fagots， we may run away， and leave them， without their taking any notice."
"Ah!" cried his wife; "and canst thou thyself have the heart to take thy children out along with thee on purpose to lose them?"
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，， 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 wink6 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 pebbles7， and then returned home.
They all went abroad， but Little Thumb never told his brothers one syllable8 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， at their work， got away from them insensibly， and ran away from them all at once， along a by-way through the winding9
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:
"Be not afraid， brothers; 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 manor10 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 famished11. 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:
"Alas12! 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 repent13 of it. What are they now doing in the forest? Alas! dear God， the wolves have perhaps already eaten them up; thou art very inhuman14 to have lost thy 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 vexed15 than his wife， but that she teased him， and that he was of the humour of a great many others， who love wives to speak well， but think those very importunate16 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 am glad to see you， my dear children; you are very hungry and weary; and my poor Peter， thou art horribly bemired; in and let me clean thee."
Now， know that Peter was her eldest son， whom she loved above all the rest， 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， 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，- 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， 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 scattered18 all along as he came; but he was very much surprised when he could not find so much as one crumb19; the birds had 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 dreadf 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 mire17， whence they got up in a very dirty pickle20; 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 glimmering21 light， like that of a candle， but a long way from the forest. He came down， and， when upon the ground， he could see it no more， which grieved him sadly. However