THE STORY OF A VERY BAD BOY 115
answered the boy, pretending to hesitate. ' But as you wish for it so much, well, I suppose I can't refuse,' and he held out the whistle, which the eldest brother put in his pocket.
Armed with the precious whistle, the three brothers returned home full of joy, and as they went the youngest said to the others,' I have such a good idea! Our wives are all lazy and grumbling, and make our lives a burden. Let us give them a lesson, and kill them as soon as we get in. Of course we can restore them to life at once, but they will have had a rare fright.'
' Ah, how clever you are,' answered the other two. ' Nobody else would have thought of that.'
So gaily the three husbands knocked down their three wives, who fell dead to the ground. Then one by one the men tried the whistle, and blew so loudly that it seemed as if their lungs would burst, but the women lay stark and stiff and never moved an eyelid. The husbands grew pale and cold, for they had never dreamed of this, nor meant any harm, and after a while they understood that their efforts were of no use, and that once more the boy had tricked them. With stern faces they rose to their feet, and taking a large sack they retraced their steps to the hut.
This time there was no escape. Toueno had been asleep, and only opened his eyes as they entered. Without a word on either side they thrust him into the sack, and tying up the mouth, the eldest threw it over his shoulder. After that they all set out to the river, where they intended to drown the boy.
But the river was a long way off, and the day was
very hot, and Antoine was heavy, heavier than a whole
sheaf of corn. They carried him in turns, but even so
they grew very tired and thirsty, and when a little
tavern came in sight on the roadside, they thankfully
flung the sack down on a bench and entered to refresh