A tailor sat in his workroom one morning, stitching away busily at a coat for the Lord Mayor. He whistled and sang so gaily that all the little boys who passed the shop on their way to school thought what a fine thing it was to be a tailor, and told one another that when they grew to be men they’d be tailors, too.
“How hungry I feel, to be sure!” cried the little man, at last; “but I’m far too busy to trouble about eating. I must finish his lordship’s coat before I touch a morsel of food,” and he broke once more into a merry song.
“Fine new jam for sale,” sang out an old woman, as she walked along the street.
“Jam! I can’t resist such a treat,” said the tailor; and, running to the door, he shouted, “This way for jam, dame; show me a pot of your very finest.”
The woman handed him jar after jar, but he found fault with all. At last he hit upon some to his liking.
“And how many pounds will you take, sir?”
“I’ll take four ounces,” he replied, in a solemn tone, “and mind you give me good weight.”
The old woman was very angry, for she had expected to sell several pounds, at least; and she went off grumbling, after she had weighed out the four ounces.
“Now for a feed!” cried the little man, taking a loaf from the cupboard as he spoke. He cut off a huge slice, and spread the jam on quite half an inch thick; then he suddenly remembered his work.
“It will never do to get jam on the Lord Mayor’s coat, so I’ll finish it off before I take even one bite,” said he. So he picked up his work once more, and his needle flew in and out like lightning. I am afraid the Lord Mayor had some stitches in his garment that were quite a quarter of an inch long.
The tailor glanced longingly at his slice of bread and jam once or twice, but when he looked the third time it was quite covered with flies, and a fine feast they were having off it.
This was too much for the little fellow. Up he jumped, crying:
“So you think I provide bread and jam for you, indeed! Well, we’ll very soon see! Take that!” and he struck the flies such a heavy blow with a duster that no fewer than seven lay dead upon the table, while the others flew up to the ceiling in great haste.
“Seven at one blow!” said the little man with great pride. “Such a brave deed ought to be known all over the town, and it won’t be my fault if folks fail to hear of it.”
So he cut out a wide belt, and stitched on it in big golden letters the words “Seven at one blow.” When this was done he fastened it round him, crying:
“I’m cut out for something better than a tailor, it’s quite clear. I’m one of the world’s great heroes, and I’ll be off at once to seek my fortune.”
He glanced round the cottage, but there was nothing of value to take with him. The only thing he possessed in the world was a small cheese.
“You may as well come, too,” said he, stowing away the cheese in his pocket, “and now I’m off.”
When he got into the street the neighbours all crowded round him to read the words on his belt.
“Seven at one blow!” said they to one another. “What a blessing he’s going; for it wouldn’t be safe to have a man about us who could kill seven of us at one stroke.”
You see, they didn’t know that the tailor had only killed flies; they took it to mean men.
He jogged along for some miles until he came to a hedge, where a little bird was caught in the branches.
“Come along,” said the tailor; “I’ll have you to keep my cheese company”; so he caught the bird and put it carefully into his pocket with the cheese.
Soon he reached a lofty mountain, and he made up his mind to climb it and see what was going on at the other side. When he reached the top, there stood a huge giant, gazing down into the valley below.
“Good day,” said the tailor.
The giant turned round, and seeing nobody but the little tailor there, he cried with scorn:
“And what might you be doing here, might I ask? You’d best be off at once.”
“Not so fast, my friend,” said the little man; “read this.”
“Seven at one blow,” read the giant, and he began to wish he’d been more civil.
“Well, I’m sure nobody would think it to look at you,” he replied; “but since you are so clever, do this,” and he picked up a stone and squeezed it until water ran out.
“Do that! Why, it’s mere child’s play to me,” and the man took out his cheese and squeezed it until the whey ran from it. “Now who is cleverer?” asked the tailor. “You see, I can squeeze milk out, while you only get water.”
The giant was too surprised to utter a word for a few minutes; then, taking up another stone, he threw it so high into the air that for a moment they couldn’t see where it went; then down it fell to the ground again.
“Good!” said the tailor; “but I’ll throw a stone that won’t come back again at all.”
Taking the little bird from his pocket, he threw it into the air, and the bird, glad to get away, flew right off and never returned.
This sort of thing didn’t suit the giant at all, for he wasn’t used to being beaten by any one.
“Here’s something that you’ll never manage,” said he to the little man. “Just come and help me to carry this fallen oak-tree for a few miles.”
“Delighted!” said the tailor, “and I’ll take the end with the branches, for it’s sure to be heavier.”
“Agreed,” replied the giant, and he lifted the heavy trunk on to his shoulder, while the tailor climbed up among the branches at the other end, and sang with all his might, as though carrying a tree was nothing to him.
The poor giant, who was holding the tree-trunk and the little tailor as well, soon grew tired.
“I’m going to let it fall!” he shouted, and the tailor jumped down from the branches, and pretended he had been helping all the time.
“The idea of a man your size finding a tree too heavy to carry!” laughed the little tailor.
“You are a clever little fellow, and no mistake,” replied the giant, “and if you’ll only come and spend the night in our cave, we shall be delighted to have you.”
“I shall have great pleasure in coming, my friend,” answered the little tailor, and together they set off for the giant’s home.
There were seven more giants in the cave, and each one of them was eating a roasted pig for his supper. They gave the little man some food, and then showed him a bed in which he might pass the night. It was so big that, after tossing about for half an hour in it, the tailor thought he would be more comfortable if he slept in the corner, so he crept out without being noticed.
In the middle of the night the giant stole out of bed and went up to the one where he thought the little man was fast asleep. Taking a big bar of iron, he struck such a heavy blow at it that he woke up all the other giants.
“Keep quiet, friends,” said he. “I’ve just killed the little scamp.”
The tailor made his escape as soon as possible, and he journeyed on for many miles, until he began to feel very tired, so he lay down under a tree, and was soon fast asleep. When he awoke, he found a big crowd of people standing round him. Up walked one very wise-looking old man, who was really the King’s prime minister.
“Is it true that you have killed seven at one blow?” he asked
“It is a fact,” answered the little tailor.
“Then come with me to the King, my friend, for he’s been searching for a brave man like you for some time past. You are to be made captain of his army, and the King will give you a fine house to live in.”
“That I will,” replied the little man. “It is just the sort of thing that will suit me, and I’ll come at once.”
He hadn’t been in the King’s service long before every one grew jealous of him. The soldiers were afraid that, if they offended him, he would make short work of them all, while the members of the King’s household didn’t fancy the idea of making such a fuss over a stranger.
So the soldiers went in a body to the King and asked that another captain should be put over them, for they were afraid of this one.
The King didn’t like to refuse, for fear they should all desert, and yet he didn’t dare get rid of the captain, in case such a strong and brave man should try to have his revenge.
At last the King hit upon a plan. In some woods close by there lived two giants, who were the terror of the countryside; they robbed all the travellers, and if any resistance was offered they killed the men on the spot.
Sending for the little tailor, he said:
“Knowing you to be the bravest man in my kingdom, I want to ask a favour of you. If you will kill these two giants, and bring me back proof that they are dead, you shall marry the Princess, my daughter, and have half my kingdom. You shall also take one hundred men to help you, and you are to set off at once.”
“A hundred men, your Majesty! Pray, what do I want with a hundred men? If I can kill seven at one blow, I needn’t be afraid of two. I’ll kill them fast enough, never fear.”
The tailor chose ten strong men, and told them to await him on the border of the wood, while he went on quite alone. He could hear the giants snoring for quite half an hour before he reached them, so he knew in which direction to go.
He found the pair fast asleep under a tree, so he filled his pockets with stones and climbed up into the branches over their heads. Then he began to pelt one of the giants with the missiles, until after a few minutes one of the men awoke. Giving the other a rough push, he cried:
“If you strike me like that again, I’ll know the reason why.”
“I didn’t touch you,” said the other giant crossly, and they were soon fast asleep once more.
Then the tailor threw stones at the other man, and soon he awoke as the first had done.
“What did you throw that at me for?” said he.
“You are dreaming,” answered the other, “I didn’t throw anything.”
No sooner were they fast asleep again, than the little man began to pelt them afresh.
Up they both sprang, and seizing each other, they began to fight in real earnest. Not content with using their fists, they tore up huge trees by the roots, and beat each other until very soon the pair lay dead on the ground.
Down climbed the little tailor, and taking his sword in his hand he plunged it into each giant, and then went back to the edge of the forest where the ten men were waiting for him.
“They are as dead as two door nails,” shouted the little man. “I don’t say that I had an easy task, for they tore up trees by their roots to try to protect themselves with, but, of course, it was no good. What were two giants to a man who has slain seven at one blow?”
But the men wouldn’t believe it until they went into the forest and saw the two dead bodies, lying each in a pool of blood, while the ground was covered with uprooted trees.
Back they went to the King, but instead of handing over half his kingdom, as he had promised, his Majesty told the little tailor that there was still another brave deed for him to do before he got the Princess for his bride.
“Just name it, then; I’m more than ready,” was the man’s reply.
“You are to kill the famous unicorn that is running wild in the forest and doing so much damage. When this is done you shall have your reward at once.”
“No trouble at all, your Majesty. I’ll get rid of him in a twinkling.”
He made the ten men wait for him at the entrance to the wood as they had done the first time, and taking a stout rope and a saw he entered the forest alone.
Up came the unicorn, but just as it was about to rush at the man he darted behind a big tree. The unicorn dashed with such force against the tree that its horn was caught quite fast and it was kept a prisoner.
Taking his rope, he tied it tightly round the animal, and, after sawing off the horn, back he went to the palace, leading the unicorn by his side.
But even then the King was not satisfied, and he made the little tailor catch a wild boar that had been seen wandering in the woods.
He took a party of huntsmen with him, but again he made them wait on the outskirts of the forest while he went on by himself.
The wild boar made a dash at the little tailor; but the man was too quick for it. He slipped into a little building close by, with the animal at his heels. Then, catching sight of a small window, he forced his way out into the forest again, and while the boar, who was too big and clumsy to follow, stood gazing at the spot where he had disappeared, the tailor ran round and closed the door, keeping the animal quite secure inside. Then he called the hunters, who shot the boar and carried the body back to the palace.
This time the King was obliged to keep his promise; so the little tailor became a Prince, and a grand wedding they had, too.
When they had been married for about a couple of years, the Princess once overheard her husband talking in his sleep.
“Boy, if you have put a patch on that waistcoat, take the Lord Mayor’s coat home at once, or I’ll box your ears,” he said.
“Oh, dear,” cried the Princess, “to think that I’ve married a common tailor! Whatever can I do to get rid of him?”
So she told her father the story, and the King said she need not worry, for he would find a way out of the difficulty. She was to leave the door open that night, and while the tailor was sleeping, the King’s servants should steal into the room, bind the tailor, and take him away to be killed.
The Princess promised to see that everything was in readiness, and she tripped about all day with a very light heart.
She little knew that one of the tailor’s servants had overheard their cruel plot, and carried the news straight to his master.
That night, when the Princess thought her husband was sleeping fast, she crept to the door and opened it.
To her great terror, the tailor began to speak.
“Boy, take the Lord Mayor’s coat home, or I’ll box your ears. Haven’t I killed seven at one blow? Haven’t I slain two giants, a unicorn, and a wild boar? What do I care for the men who are standing outside my door at this moment?”
At these words off flew the men as though they had been shot from a gun, and no more attempts were ever made on his life. So the Princess had to make the best of a bad job.
He lived on and when the old King died he ascended the throne in his stead. So the brave little tailor became ruler over the whole kingdom; and his motto throughout his whole life was, “Seven at one blow.”