THE SHIFTY LAD
' Here you are at last, you villain ! ' cried his master in great wrath. ' But I will be revenged on you.'
' It is all right,' replied the Shifty Lad calmly. ' I have brought what you wanted'; and he laid the things he was carrying down on the ground.
' Ah ! you are the better thief,' said the Black Rogue's wife ; and the Black Rogue added :
' Yes, it is you who are the clever boy ' ; and they divided the spoil, and the Black Gallows Bird had one half and the Shifty Lad the other half.
A few weeks after that the Black Gallows Bird had news of a wedding that was to be held near the town ; and the bridegroom had many friends and everybody sent him a present. Now a rich farmer who lived up near the moor thought that nothing wTas so useful to a young couple when they first began to keep house as a fine fat sheep, so he bade his shepherd go off to the mountain where the flock were feeding, and bring him back the best he could find. And the shepherd chose out the largest and fattest of the sheep and the one with the whitest fleece ; then he tied its feet together and put it across his shoulder, for he had a long way to go.
That day the Shifty Lad happened to be wandering over the moor, when he saw the man with the sheep on his shoulder walking along the road which led past the Black Rogue's house. The sheep was heavy and the man was in no hurry, so he came slowly and the boy knew that he himself could easily get back to his master before the shepherd was even in sight.
' I will wager,' he cried, as he pushed quickly through the bushes which hid the cabin—' I will wager that I will steal the sheep from the man that is coming before he passes here.'
' Will you indeed ? ' said the Gallows Bird. ' I will wager you a hundred silver pieces that you can do nothing of the sort.'