162 GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES.
climbed up by his father's coat tails, and, perching himself on his shoulder, he whispered in his ear,
" Father, you might as well let me go. I will soon come back again."
Then the father gave him up to the two men for a large piece of money. They asked him where he would like to sit,
" Oh, put me on the brim of your hat," said he. " There I can walk about and view the country, and be in no danger of falling off."
So they did as he wished, and when Tom Thumb had taken leave of his father, they set off all together. And they travelled on until it grew dusk, and the little fellow asked to be set down a little while for a change, and after some difficulty they consented. So the man took him down from his hat, and set him in a field by the roadside, and he ran away directly, and, after creeping about among the furrows, he slipped suddenly into a mouse-hole, just what he was looking for.
" Good evening, my masters, you can go home without me ! " cried he to them, laughing. They ran up and felt about with their sticks in the mouse-hole, but in vain. Tom Thumb crept farther and farther in, and as it was growing dark, they had to make the best of their way home, full of vexation, and with empty purses.
When Tom Thumb found they were gone, he crept out of his hiding-place underground.
" It is dangerous work groping about these holes in the darkness," said he; "I might easily break my neck."
But by good fortune he came upon an empty snail shell.
" That's all right," said he. " Now I can get safely through the night;" and he settled himself down in it. Before he had time to get to sleep, he heard two men pass by, and one was saying to the other,
" How can we manage to get hold of the rich parson's gold and silver ? "
" I can tell you how," cried Tom Thumb.
" How is this ? " said one of the thieves, quite frightened, " I hear some one speak ! "
So they stood still and listened, and Tom Thumb spoke again.
" Take me with you ; I will show you how to do it !"