THUMBELINA, PART II
THUMBELINA, FREED FROM THE GRIP OF GRASPING TOADS, now found herself trapped on the lily pad that had helped her get away, being swept out of control into the far countryside. Unequipped with flotation gear, she could not risk a spill in the fast churning white water, when a large, beautiful Butterfly that had fluttered round her, came close enough to signal she should reach for his feet and see if he could not pull the leaf to shore. Thumbelina stood upon the leaf, and with the blue creatures help was soon close enough to catch the stem of a Buttercup, and safety. Heartily she thanked the friendly Butterfly who happily bobbed away, but now she was alone on the edge of a great wood..
All Summer Thumbelina lived alone in the wood. She wove herself a bed out of blades of grass and hung it up under wild ginger, so that she had protection from the rain. She plucked the nectar out of the flowers for food, and drank of the dew which stood every morning upon the leaves. In this way the Summer and Autumn passed away, but now came Winter, and Thumbelina was barely prepared for what was coming. The birds who had sung so sweetly flew away; trees and flowers shed their leaves; the large ginger leaf she had sheltered under shriveled up to a yellow, withered stalk; and she was very, very cold, for her clothes were now torn. Then it began to snow. Every snowflake that fell upon her was like a shovelful thrown on one of us, for we are tall, but she was only an inch high! She wrapped herself in a dry leaf, torn in the middle, and shivered with cold.
CLOSE TO THE WOOD lay a great corn-field, now covered with naked dry stubble, where the Indian corn had grown long ago. These were like a forest to Thumbelina, and she trembled with cold as she wandered through. She happened upon the hidden door of a Field Mouse who had a little hole under the stubble of the organically grown crop. There the Field Mouse lived, warm and comfortable, with a whole roomful of good corn --- which the farmer didnt begrudge her a glorious kitchen and larder. Poor Thumbelina stood at the door just like a little beggar girl, and begged for a little bit of food, for she had not had the smallest morsel to eat for at least two days.
"You poor creature," said the Field Mouse for she was a good Field Mouse "come into my warm room and dine with me."
"As she was pleased with Thumbelina, she made her a proposition: "If you like, you may stay with me through the winter, but you must keep my room clean and neat, and tell me little stories, for I am very fond of those."
Thumbelina thought it a good exchange and happily agreed.
NOW WE SHALL SOON HAVE A VISITOR," SAID THE Field Mouse, explaining things. My neighbor comes to visit me once a week. He is even better off than I am; has great rooms, and beautiful black velvety fur." It was the next statement that had peculiar resonance for Thumbelina: "If you could only get him for your husband, you would be well provided for. You must tell him the prettiest stories you know, and sing."
PERHAPS he was well-off, but Thumbelina did not care about this. He was a Mole. Perhaps he had a black velvet coat, and the Field Mouse kept telling how rich and learned he was and how his house was more than twenty times larger than hers, but though he had learning, he did not like the sun and beautiful flowers, for he had never seen them and did not want to see them. She was grateful to the Field Mouse, but like Mrs. Toad, Field Mouse had an acquisitive and none-too-subtle nature. Thumbelina now not only had to work for her room and board, she was expected to please the neighborhood Mole with stories and songs, even though she didnt like him.
She hoped not to be too attractive, and she was more than a little indignant. She sang two songs her Auntie Bea had taught her "Maud "(in perfect French), and "I Always Say Hello "
Mole liked it.
WORSE, the Mole fell in love with her. Soon he had dug a long passage through the earth from his house to theirs, to the delight of the Field Mouse. Thumbelina and Mouse were invited to walk through as much as they wished. However, he asked them not to be afraid of the dead bird which was lying in the passage.
An entire bird, with wings and beak. (It must have died only a short time before, and was now buried just where the Mole had made his passage.)
Mole took a bit of decayed wood in his mouth, which glimmered like fire in the dark.
Graciously he went first and came where the dead bird lay. Mole thrust his broad nose up against the low ceiling, so that a great hole was made through which the daylight could shine down. There in the middle of the floor lay a dead Swallow, his beautiful wings pressed close against his sides, and his head and feet drawn back under his feathers. The poor bird had certainly died of cold and hunger. Mole gave him a push with his crooked legs.
THUMBELINA SAID NOTHING, but when the two others turned their backs on the bird, she bent down, put the feathers aside which covered his head, and kissed him upon his closed eyes.
"Perhaps it was he who sang so prettily before me in the summer," she thought. "How much pleasure he gave me, the dear, beautiful bird!"
Mole closed up the hole through which daylight shone in and accompanied the ladies home. But Thumbelina could not sleep that night at all, so she got up out of her bed, and wove a large beautiful carpet of hay and carried it and spread it over the dead bird, and laid the thin stamens of flowers soft as cotton (which she had found in the Field Mouse' room) at the birds sides, so that he might lie soft in the ground.
FAREWELL, YOU PRETTY LITTLE BIRD!" SAID SHE. "Farewell!! And thank you for your beautiful song in the Summer, when all the trees were green, and the sun shone down warmly upon us both." And then she laid the birds head upon her heart. But the bird was not dead. He was only lying there torpid with cold, and now he had been warmed, and came to life again!!
Thumbelina was so startled she trembled. He was alive but quite weak. He could only open his eyes for a moment and look at Thumbelina, who stood before him with a little bit of decayed wood in her hand, for she had no other light.
IN AUTUMN, all the Swallows fly away to warm countries where they spend the winter. They are called "migratory" birds. Thumbelina had not had a chance to become a Girl Scout, but she had taught herself to read, and she knew quite a lot.. Judging from his markings, this was a Tree Swallow; an insectivore like his famous cousin, the Purple Martin, but he also ate plant-food. Like other migratory birds, this beautiful Tree Swallow normally ate insects, fruit and berries, but his food had dried up with the chilling frost when he stayed late, and he was trapped by the cold with no food.
Thumbelina knew what to do.
"It is too cold outside for you to try to fly. It snows and freezes. Stay in your warm bed, and I will nurse you." The Mole, she knew, had vast stores in his root cellar. She went to look, and sure enough, there were bayberries and fruits, as well as freeze-dried spiders, mosquitoes, flies, beetles, even grasshoppers and ants! Hed be o.k..
Then she brought the Swallow water in the petal of a flower, and the Swallow drank and told her how he had torn one of his wings in a thorn bush and had not been able to fly and had at last fallen to the ground and could remember nothing more.
THE WHOLE WINTER the Swallow remained there, and Thumbelina nursed and tended him. Neither the Field Mouse nor the Mole heard anything about it, for they did not like the poor Swallow. As soon as Spring came and the sun warmed the earth again, the Swallow bade Thumbelina farewell, and she opened up the hole which Mole had made in the ceiling. The sun shone gloriously, and the Swallow asked if Thumbelina would go with him as she could sit upon his back, and they would fly away into the green wood. But Thumbelina knew that the old Field Mouse would be grieved if she left her, and said goodbye.
"Farewell, farewell, you good, loving girl!" said the Swallow and flew out into the sunshine. Thumbelina felt very sad and tears came into her eyes, for she had grown so fond of the poor Swallow. But she felt an obliation to her benefactress, even though she did not get permission to go out into the warm sunshine.
The corn sown in the field was now so high it was like a thick wood over the poor girl,who was, remember, only an inch in height. How could she ever find her way again?
SCARCE HAD THIS THOUGHT PASSED through the little girls mind when the Field Mouse declared: "You are betrothed now, Thumbelina!. Mole has proposed to you, and I have accepted. Think what great fortune for a poor child like you! Now you must work on your trousseau for you must lack nothing when you have become the Moles wife."
EVERY NIGHT THE MOLE PAID HER A VISIT, and he was always saying that when the Summer should draw to a close he would keep his wedding day with Thumbelina. Every morning, the sun rose and every evening when it went down, she crept out at the door, and when the wind blew the corn-ears apart, so that she could see the blue sky, she thought how bright and beautiful it was out here and wished terribly to see her dear Swallow again. But the swallow did not come back. He had undoubtedly flown far away in the fair green forest. WHEN AUTUMN CAME ON, Thumbelina had all her outfit ready, and a deep sorrow. She had wept and declared she would not have the tiresome Mole. But the Field Mouse said, "Nonsense! Dont be obstinate, or I will bite you with my white teeth!" THE WEDDING WAS TO BE HELD. She was to live with Mole deep under the earth and never to come out into the warm sunshine, because he didnt like it. She must say farewell to the glorious sun, which, after all, she had at least been allowed by the Field Mouse to see from the threshold of the door.
"FAREWELL, THOU BRIGHT SUN!" she said and stretched out her arms toward it and walked a little way from the house of the Field Mouse, for now it was Autumn and the corn had been reaped and sorted. "Farewell!"she repeated hopelessly, wrapping her arms round a little red flower which still bloomed there. "Greet the little Swallow from me, if you see him again."
TWEET-WEET! TWEET-WEET! A voice suddenly sounded over her head. She looked up; it was the little Swallow who had just been flying by. When he saw Thumbelina he was overjoyed; and when Thumbelina told him how she was going to have to have the ugly Mole for her husband and live deep under the ground where the sun never shown, he refused to accept it. "The cold Winter is coming now, he said, and I am going to fly far away South into the warm countries of the rain forests. This time will you come with me? You can sit upon my back, and we shall fly from the ugly Mole and his dark room away, far away, over the mountains to the tropics where the sun shines even warmer than here; where it is always summer, and there are lovely flowers, insects, fruit and berries. Fly with me, Thumbelina. You who saved my life when I lay frozen in the dark earthy passage."
"Yes, I WILL go with you! Said Thumbelina, and she seated herself on the birds back, with her feet on his outspread wings, and bound her scarf fast to one of his strongest feathers. Then the Swallow flew up into the air over forest and sea; high over the great mountains where the snow always lies. And Thumbelina felt the cold in the high air, but she hid under the bird's warm feathers and only put out her little head to admire all the beauties beneath her.
AT LAST THEY CAME TO THE WARM COUNTRIES AND THE RAIN FORESTS. The sun shone brighter there; the sky seemed twice as high; over the hedges grew blue and green and red and yellow and other fruits and flowers of every kind. The air was fragrant with tropical scents; butterflies danced. There were jaguars and panthers, lizards and lemurs, fish and birds of every kind everywhere. As they flew, it became more and more beautiful. Under the most glorious emerald green trees and canopies, by a blue lake, stood the ruins of an ancient city and palace, clustered with vines and nests, where the Swallow lived. "Select for yourself one of the splendid flowers which grow down below; then I will put you into it, and you shall have everything you wish."
A great Stone lay there, fallen and broken into three pieces, but between these pieces grew gorgeous great white flowers. The Swallow flew down with Thumbelina, and set her upon one of the broad leaves. But what was the little maids surprise? There sat an Equally Little Man in the midst of the flower, wearing the neatest of gold crowns on his head, and the brightest wings on his shoulders. He was no bigger than Thumbelina! In each of the flowers dwelt such a little man or woman, but this one was king over them all.
"Good Heavens, how handsome he is!" whispered Thumbelina to the Swallow. And when the little Prince saw Thumbelina, he became very glad for she was the loveliest maiden he had ever seen. Whereupon he took off his golden crown, and put it on her head, asked her name and if she would be his wife, and then she would be queen of all the flowers.
Before she could answer, out of every flower came a lady or lord, each bringing Thumbelina a present, the best being a pair of beautiful wings. Fastened to Thumbelinas back, she could now fly from flower to flower. But would she marry him after all she'd learned? Thumbelina thought and thought and finally answered: "We must take time to get to know and like each other first," she said. Then, we shall see what we shall see."
Meantime, Thumbelina became Chief Arborist and Specialist in Avian Botanicals for the community. She was elected Group Head, by the Peoples Council, of the First Fauna and Flora Survey of their neighborhood and adjacent forest. She taught the children how to read and write. And her beloved Swallow and all the other Migratory Birds promised to fly her back to the States any Spring and Summer that she wished.
Thumbelina lived happily ever after.
And so did the Prince.
* Artist: Chris Rose
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