Tom’s strength came to be known in this manner: his mother, it seems, as well as himself, for they lived in the days of merry old England, slept upon straw. Now, being a tidy old creature, she must every now and then have a new bed, and one day having been promised a bottle of straw by a neighboring farmer, after much begging she got her son to fetch it. Tom, however, made her borrow a cart-rope first, before he would budge a step, without saying what he wanted it for; but the poor woman, too glad to gain his help upon any terms, let him have it at once. Tom, swinging the rope round his shoulder went to the farmer’s, and found him with two men threshing in a barn. Having told what he wanted, the farmer said he might take as much straw as he could carry. Tom at once took him at his word, and, placing the rope in a right position, rapidly made up a bundle containing at least a cartload, the men jeering at him all the while. Their merriment, however, did not last long, for Tom flung the enormous bundle over his shoulders, and walked away with it without any difficulty, and left them all gaping after him.
After this exploit Tom was no longer allowed to be idle. Every one tried to secure his services, and we are told many tales of his mighty strength. On one occasion, having been offered as great a bundle of fire wood as he could carry, he marched off with one of the largest trees in the forest. Tom was also extremely fond of attending fairs; and in cudgeling, wrestling, or throwing the hammer, there was no one who could compete with him. He thought nothing of flinging a huge hammer into the middle of a river a mile off, and, in fact, performed such extraordinary feats, that the folk began to have a fear of him.
At length a brewer at Lynn, who required a strong lusty fellow to carry his beer to the Marsh and to Wisbeach, after much persuasion, and promising him a new suit of clothes and as much as he liked to eat and drink, secured Tom for his business. The distance he daily traveled with the beer was upwards of twenty miles, for although there was a shorter cut through the Marsh, no one durst go that way for fear of a monstrous giant, who was lord of a portion of the district, and who killed or made slaves of every one he could lay his hands upon.
Now, in the course of time, Tom was thoroughly tired of going such a roundabout way, and without telling his plans to any one, he resolved to pass through the giant’s domain, or lose his life in the attempt. This was a bold undertaking, but good living had so increased Tom’s strength and courage, that venturesome as he was before, his hardiness was so much increased that he would have faced a still greater danger. He accordingly drove his cart in the forbidden direction, flinging the gates wide open, as if for the purpose of making his daring more plain to be seen.