Tom was now a great man and a hero with all the country folk, so that when any one was in danger or difficulty, it was to Tom Hickathrift he must turn. It chanced that about this time many idle and rebellious persons drew themselves together in and about the Isle of Ely, and set themselves to defy the king and all his men.
By this time, you must know, Tom Hickathrift had secured to himself a trusty friend and comrade, almost his equal in strength and courage, for though he was but a tinker, yet he was a great and lusty one. Now the sheriff of the country came to Tom, under cover of night, full of fear and trembling, and begged his aid and protection against the rebels, “else,” said he, “we be all dead men!” Tom, nothing loth, called his friend the tinker, and as soon as it was day, led by the sheriff, they went out armed with their clubs to the place where the rebels were gathered together. When they were got thither, Tom and the tinker marched up to the leaders of the band, and asked them why they were set upon breaking the king’s peace. To this they answered loudly, “Our will is our law, and by that alone we will be governed!” “Nay,” quoth Tom, “if it be so, these trusty clubs are our weapons, and by them alone you shall be chastised.” These words were no sooner uttered than they madly rushed on the throng of men, bearing all before them, and laying twenty or thirty sprawling with every blow. The tinker struck off heads with such violence that they flew like balls for miles about, and when Tom had slain hundreds and so broken his trusty club, he laid hold of a lusty raw-boned miller and made use of him as a weapon till he had quite cleared the field.
If Tom Hickathrift had been a hero before, he was twice a hero now. When the king heard of it all, he sent for him to be knighted, and when he was Sir Thomas Hickathrift nothing would serve him but that he must be married to a great lady of the country.
So married he was, and a fine wedding they had of it. There was a great feast given, to which all the poor widows for miles round were invited, because of Tom’s mother, and rich and poor feasted together. Among the poor widows who came was an old woman called Stumbelup, who with much ingratitude stole from the great table a silver tankard. But she had not got safe away before she was caught and the people were so enraged at her wickedness that they nearly hanged her. However, Sir Tom had her rescued, and commanded that she should be drawn on a wheelbarrow through the streets and lanes of Cambridge, holding a placard in her hand on which was written—
“I am the naughty Stumbelup,
Who tried to steal the silver cup.”
THE STORY OF FRITHIOF