killed the oxen as they had killed the sheep and the pigs. Last of all they came to the king's cherished ox.
The son had a rope ready to cast round its horns, and throw it to the ground, but the ox was stronger than the rope, and soon tore it in pieces. Then it dashed away to the wood, the youth following; over hedges and ditches they both went, till they reached the rocky pass which bordered the herdsman's land. Here the ox, thinking itself safe, stopped to rest, and thus gave the young man a chance to come up with it. Not knowing how to catch it, he collected all the wood he could find and made a circle of fire round the ox, who by this time had fallen asleep, and did not wake till the fire had caught its head, and it was too late for it to escape. Then the young man, who had been watching, ran home to his master.
'You have been away a long while,' said the herdsman. 'Where are the cattle?'
The young man gasped, and seemed as if he was unable to speak. At last he answered:
'It is always the same story! The oxen are--gone--gone!'
'G-g-gone?' cried the herdsman. 'Scoundrel, you lie!'
'I am telling you the exact truth,' answered the young man. 'Directly we came to the meadow they grew so wild that I could not keep them together. Then the big ox broke away, and the others followed till they all disappeared down a deep hole into the earth. It seemed to me that I heard sounds of bellowing, and I thought I recognised the voice of the golden horned ox; but when I got to the place from which the sounds had come, I could neither see nor hear anything in the hole itself, though there were traces of a fire all round it.'
'Wretch!' cried the herdsman, when he had heard this story, 'even if you did not lie before, you are lying now.'
'No, master, I am speaking the truth. Come and see for yourself.'
'If I find you have deceived me, you are a dead man, said the herdsman; and they went out together.